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Can Star-Shaped Polymers End Superbugs?

First Posted: Sep 27, 2016 06:16 AM EDT
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For a while now, superbugs have been a problem in the science world. This is due to their resistance to antibiotics. But here's good news: Experts are currently testing a new approach that uses star-shaped polymers to fight and kill drug-resistant bacteria.

According to Science Alert, 25-year-old Shu Lam was the one who developed a star-shaped polymer that can fight and kill six various superbug strains without the need for antibiotics. Lam is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne.

At present, Lam and her team have done tests on mice and in the lab. The new approach could potentially solve the problem on antibiotic resistance. Such problem is becoming big; hence becoming a "fundamental threat" to global health, according to the United Nations.

The polymers could kill the bacteria in different ways. They can break apart the bacteria's cell walls. This will cause stress to the bacteria until they start to kill themselves. In the tests, the team was able to kill all the targeted bacteria. Moreover, they did not seem to develop polymer-resistance. According to Phys.org, the polymers are short chains of proteins created by the team from Melbourne School of Engineering.

Also called structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers (SNAPPs), the polymers directly attack and penetrate the bacteria's cell membrane, and then destabilize them. Unlike antibiotics which can also affect healthy bacteria cells, SNAPPs don't affect the healthy cells.

While these star-shaped polymers still need more tests, the current findings provide great hope to solve that the problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Nature Biology has published the research and scientists believe it could make great changes in the modern medicine.

As of writing, data shows that antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill aproximately 700,000 people every year. A recent study revealed that the number could go up to 10 million in 2050. Apparently, the research can indeed give high hopes for health improvement.

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