Scientists from the University of Waterloo and the University of Manitoba have developed a new therapy to combat deadly bacteria that infects patients worldwide.
The new therapy is a biocide that targets an antibiotic-defiant bacterium such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) to combat superbugs.
“We wanted to be able to help vulnerable patients suffering from chronic infections,” says Emmanuel Ho, a professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo. “Once they’re infected with a resistant strain of bacteria it’s very difficult to get them well again.”
This latest development provides hope in an age where bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics faster than researchers can develop new ones. The World Health Organization estimates 700,000 people die annually from antibiotic-resistant infections and they expect this toll to climb to 10 million by 2050, higher than the current death rate from cancer.
University of Manitoba researcher, Song Liu, created a potent biocide that kills all bacterial cells – even the antibiotic-resistant ones. The biocide was limited to surface wounds due to its poor selectivity between bacterial and mammalian cells, but if they could deliver the biocide to a target inside the body, it would kill even the most resistant superbug.
Accompanying Liu’s work, Ho encased the biocide in solid-lipid nanoparticles (SLN) and then added an antibody – a protein that would seek out MRSA bacteria over other cells. When the SLNs reach the bacteria, they release the biocide, killing the target but leaving healthy cells unaffected. The optimal outcome.
“The results from our initial experiments are very promising,” says Ho. “Still, we have a lot of work to do before this is available as an alternative to antibiotics. Our next step is to find out whether the biocide gets released outside or inside the cell.”
The researchers believe that antimicrobial resistance will be unlikely to happen with their SLN particles because the antibodies that are being used to target MSRA won’t cause the bacteria to develop an enzyme or other defence mechanisms in response.
This therapy offers a new line of defence in this critical time to confidently outpace antibiotic resistance.