Researchers have used liquid metals to develop a new bacterial killing technology that could be the answer to the deadly problem of antibiotic resistance.
The technology uses nanometric particles of magnetic liquid metal to shred bacteria and bacterial biofilms, the protective “house” in which bacteria thrive, without damaging good cells.
The research, published in ACS Nano, and led by a team from the RMIT University of Melbourne, offers a new innovative direction in the search for better technologies to fight bacteria.
Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to global health, which causes at least 700,000 deaths a year. Without action, the death toll could increase to 10 million people a year by 2050, beating cancer as the cause of death.
The main problems are the spread of dangerous drug-resistant superbacteria and the growth of bacterial biofilm infections, which can no longer be treated with existing antibiotics.
“We are heading to a future post-antibiotic, where common bacterial infections, minor injuries and routine surgeries could be fatal again,” said Dr. Aaron Elbourne, a postdoctoral fellow at the Nanobiotechnology Laboratory at RMIT.
“It is not enough to reduce the use of antibiotics, we need to completely rethink how we fight bacterial infections.”
“Bacteria are incredibly adaptable and eventually develop defenses to the chemicals used in antibiotics, but they have no way of dealing with a physical attack,” said Dr. Elbourne.
“Our method uses precisely designed liquid metals to physically tear the bacteria into pieces and crush the biofilm where the bacteria live and multiply.
“With further development, we hope this technology can be the way to help make a history of antibiotic resistance.”