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Monday, June 14, 2021

Antibiotic-resistant Band-aid That ‘Eats’ Bacteria

A new type of drug that can be applied even if bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics.

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Researchers have created a hydrogel that is applied to wounds and that is able to fight against all types of bacteria, including those resistant to antibiotics

A group of scientists from the Chalmers University of Technology has created a new hydrogel that is applied with a band-aid and is highly effective in treating bacterial infections in wounds. This discovery opens the door to a new type of drug that can be applied even if bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest health problems we are facing today. The World Health Organization states that the number of infections that are resistant to antibiotics is increasing and this leads to longer hospital stays, increases medical costs, and increases mortality.

According to Martin Andersson, research leader and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology:

After testing our new hydrogel on different types of bacteria, we observed a high level of efficacy, even against those that have become antibiotic-resistant.

The team has designed this new drug-taking inspiration from our own immune system.

Specifically, in a group of proteins called antimicrobial peptides that we have conserved in our body as an innate immune response in the different evolutionary processes.

With these types of peptides, there is a very low risk for bacteria to develop resistance against them, since they only affect the outermost membrane of the bacteria. That is perhaps the foremost reason why they are so interesting to work with.

says Professor Andersson.

In the past, unsuccessful attempts have been made to find ways to use these peptides in medical applications. The problem, the researchers say, is that when they come into contact with bodily fluids like the blood they break down quickly. The Swedish team’s research has been able to get around this problem by protecting these components within a hydrogel.

The material is very promising. It is harmless to the body’s own cells and gentle on the skin. In our measurements, the protective effect of the hydrogel on the antimicrobial peptides is clear– the peptides degrade much slower when they are bound to it.

says Edvin Blomstrand, a doctoral student in the department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, and one of the lead authors on the paper.

The study has been published in the journal ‘ACS Biomaterials’ Science & Engineering and the hydrogel will be launched on the market by Amferia, a company created by the researchers themselves also studying its application as a spray.

The race to get peptides to market

According to the researchers, this new material is the first medical device to successfully use antimicrobial peptides in a clinically and commercially viable way. Although there are others that are in the development phase right now.

Another group of Swiss researchers, this time from the Empa research institute, has created an experimental dressing with a thin membrane made mainly of cellulose fibers of plant origin. According to Swiss researchers, each of these fibers is less than a micrometer – one-millionth of a meter – in diameter.

The team led by Empa researcher Katharina Maniura, from the Biointerfaces laboratory in St. Gallen published their results in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

The researchers showed that human skin cells tolerate peptide-containing membranes well, but are lethal to bacteria such as staph, which are often found in poorly healing wounds.

In the future, these antimicrobial membranes may be equipped with more functions. 

“Peptides could, for example, have new functions with binding sites that allow the controlled release of other therapeutic substances,” says Maniura.

Although we do not know which of the drugs will hit the market first, the war is served. 

What is clear is that it will not be long before we have this type of treatment at our disposal in the pharmacy.

Image Credit: Getty

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