Scientists use nanoparticles to attack chronic bacterial infections
Researchers at Australia's Universityof New South Wales (UNSW) have come up with a new way of tackling harmful biofilms. The non-toxic method, which combinestargeted nanoparticles with heat, could have a wide range ofapplications.
When bacteria exist as single,independent cells they'reusually easy to treat using antibiotics. However, given enough time,bacteria will often band together to form a biofilm, growing into amatrix that's much more difficult to treat.
As many as 80 percent ofinfections are linked to biofilms, and they can also infect equipmentsuch as dialysis catheters, making them a persistent and growing problem inhospitals across the globe.
Looking for new ways to tackle theissue, the UNSW researchers made a breakthrough when working withthe human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa – an organism that servesas a model of how most other bacteria react to the treatment.
Inorder to attack the biofilm, the team attempted to recreate what happens to the cells when they move to colonize a new site. When this occurs,the structure breaks up into individual cells, making them moresusceptible to attack.
To do so, the team injectediron oxide nanoparticles and heated them with an applied magneticfield. This raised the temperature by 5 °C, inducinglocal hyperthermia and, as hoped, caused the biofilm cells todisperse. Once the matrix of cell was broken up, the bacteria became much easier to treat.
"The use of these polymer-coated ironoxide nanoparticles to disperse biofilms may have broad applicationsacross a range of clinical and industrial settings," says studylead Professor Cyrille Boyer. "Once dispersed, the bacteria areeasier to deal with – creating the potenial to remove recalcitrant,antimicrobial-tolerant biofilm infections."
The findings were published in thejournal Scientific Reports.