Antibiotic nanoparticles fight drug-resistant bacteria

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem and a major threat to health worldwide, especially in ‘gram-negative’ bacteria which have two cell membranes.

Developments in targeted drug delivery for cancer treatment, involving ‘tandem peptides’, which act first to allow drugs to pass bacterial membranes before the active agent kills tumour cells, have been adapted by MIT researchers to effectively treat bacterial infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium which can cause pneumonia, in the lungs of mice. The peptides are ‘packaged’ into silicon nanoparticles, which act both as a delivery mechanism (potentially via inhalation, although initial experiments involved instillation into the trachea) and also to slow the release of the active agents, preventing local damage to other tissues and hence reducing side effects.

A million-fold reduction in bacterial loading was seen in infected mice treated with the nanoparticles compared to untreated mice, and effects were also shown against drug-resistant Pseudomonas colonies in vitro. The results could lead to more effective, non-invasive treatment for bacterial respiratory infections and help in the development of drugs to counter bacterial drug resistance.

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