As antibiotics become more commonplace, whether we need them or not, superbugs are worrying doctors and turning up more and more often. So the race is on to find methods to kill superbugs without antibiotics, and a new paper might reveal a major breakthrough.
Shu Lam, a graduate student at the University of Melbourne, has a simple solution: Impale the little buggers. Lam has developed a polymer that forms a star shape, called a structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymer, or SNAPP. The polymer seeks out superbugs and wrecks them in a number of ways, most importantly by ripping up their cell walls. Much like you and I don’t do very well when we’ve gotten a bunch of stab wounds, the cell wall punctures put so much stress on the superbug cell it collapses.
Lam is being cautious, noting that she’s only tested it on six superbugs and only done one live trial with mice. But the polymer consistently works, across generations of superbugs, and more importantly, it appears to leave the cells we want alive undamaged. It also opens up a new avenue to preventing infections without antibiotics, which will be a useful avenue of research in the years to come.