Nanotechnology researchers develop superbug 'destroyer'

25 January 2013

A new scientific development that can completely destroy drug-resistant bacteria has been revealed by researchers today (January 24th).

Scientists from IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology unveiled an antimicrobial hydrogel, which is the first of its kind to be biodegradable, biocompatible and non-toxic, to treat superbugs and eradicate biofilms.

Antimicrobials, liquids that kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms, are traditionally used to disinfect surfaces and can be found in solutions such as alcohol and bleach.

However, using it as a drug to treat infectious skin complaints or diseases in the body is becoming increasingly difficult, IBM Research claims, as conventional antibiotics become less effective and surface disinfectants are unsuitable to use on the body.

In light of this, the research and development organization, alongside other collaborators, developed a remoldable synthetic antimicrobial hydrogel, which consists of more than 90 per cent water.

Formed spontaneously when heated to body temperature, it can be used to combat serious health hazards in hospitals for workers, visitors and patients, the findings show.

This newly-developed form of antimicrobial would be suitable for skin applications, either as a cream or injectable to treat skin infections, wound healing or implant coatings.

James Hedrick, Advanced Organic Materials Scientist at IBM Research, claimed this latest development is a "fundamentally different approach to fighting drug-resistant biofilms".

"This new technology is appearing at a crucial time as traditional chemical and biological techniques for dealing with drug-resistant bacteria and infectious diseases are increasingly problematic," he said.

The latest research is part of the IBM nanomedicine polymer program, which was created four years ago and aims to improve medicine and drug discovery.

Dr Yi-Yan Yang, Group Leader at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore, who also worked on the study, said the development will enable scientists "to target the most common and challenging bacterial and fungal diseases, and adapt polymers for a broad range of applications to combat microbial infections".

A recent nanotechnology breakthrough, which also limits the spread of bacteria, has successfully been used to improve food safety within factories.

Scientists at the Department of Food Science University of Massachusetts reported the creation of a contaminant-resistant surface for stainless steel to improve productivity and efficiency during the manufacturing process.

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