25th Jun 2019

Now I see you! Nanoantibiotics take care of bacteria that hides in our cells

25th Jun 2019

Curated by Santhni Subramaniam

Screenshot 2019-06-24 at 17.27.16Despite growing antibiotic resistance, there's a way to make the drugs work better: researchers used nanotechnology to get close to bacteria that cause recurrent infections in our bodies.

In 10 seconds? Scientists have loaded antibiotics into tiny carriers to substantially increase the drugs' effectiveness against bacteria. The new method will enable us to treat recurring illness caused by bacteria that hide in our cells. (Read the science)

What do you mean by hidden bacteria? Bacteria are constantly evolving to outsmart the drugs invented by us. For example, they hide inside human cells to escape the firepower of standard antibiotics and the immune system. Bacteria replicate inside infected cells, forming a reservoir and use it as a safe base to constantly invade the human body. This is the cause of chronic and recurrent infections that are very hard to diagnose in the clinic. (Read more)

OK, so what's the discovery? It's based on the fact that cell membranes let through nanoparticles whereas standard antibiotic compounds find it hard to penetrate them. Could this give us a better tool to treat bacterial infections? To test the idea, scientists loaded nanoparticles with antibiotics and sent them on a mission to kill those bugs. As expected, the antibiotic that was encapsulated in the particles reached and destroyed its target. In other words, this method is more efficient than standard antibiotic therapy. (Read the paper)

How do these nanoparticles look like? 'Looking' is probably not the right word here as they are so tiny! They can be only a billionth of a metre long, but their size means they are small enough to cross through cell membranes yet big enough to carry antibiotics. Why? Because of the material they made of: mesoporous silica is biologically safe and extremely porous. Its numerous pores allow nanoparticles to be packed with antibiotic drugs that they carry right into cells coining the name for the new drug delivery method as “nanoantibiotics”.  (Find out more)

Is this nano-delivery our only option? It's one of the best so far. Infection caused by hidden bacteria are much harder to treat compared to other infections and we are limited with our options. Researchers are working hard to target hidden bacteria and some are using novel biological compounds. However, with new drugs, the regulatory process can be very long and challenging. Boosting the efficacy of existing medicines can be a better approach, so "nanoantibiotics" can be of great help. (Read more)

Great! So, what’s next? While this research is in its very early stage, there’s certainly hope. We are looking at improving our nanoantibiotics to ensure the best treatment strategy possible to eradicate these bacteria. Further research to help understand the action of nanoantibiotics compared to other options will shed light on ways to improve them. (Read more)

Nanoantibiotics: what is the hype about?

Bacteria are small but feisty - constantly finding a new survival strategy to harm us. Antimicrobial resistance is a global threat and we are running out of treatment options.

Nanoantibiotics are an emerging and promising alternative strategy. These nanoparticles containing antibiotics can deliver antibiotics directly to infected cells and control the release of the drug, thus reducing side effects.

If this works, it could kill bacteria in a more efficient manner and reduce the burden of many patients suffering from recurrent infections and side effects.

(Psst, Santhni distilled 12 research papers to save you 757.3 min)

Curated by

Santhni Subramaniam

PhD Candidate at The University of South Australia. Santhni's research focuses on novel drug delivery strategies for antibiotics against recalcitrant Infections.

Share this digest