Light-activated therapeutic nanoparticles that are 20,000 times smaller than a human hair may one day be used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a new study reveals. Called “quantum dots,” the particles resemble semiconductors used in electronics, and they’re able to act directly on the infection without interfering with healthy tissue around it.
Discovered by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, the nanoparticles aren’t new when it comes to fighting off bacteria infection. However, unlike previous research that used metal nanoparticles that caused damage to the cells surrounding an infection, the quantum dots can be tailored to certain infections and only activated by certain light wavelengths.
“By shrinking these semiconductors down to the nanoscale, we’re able to create highly specific interactions within the cellular environment that only target the infection,” senior study author Prashant Nagpal said. “While we can always count on these superbugs to adapt and fight the therapy, we can quickly tailor these quantum dots to come up with a new therapy and, therefore, fight back faster in this evolutionary race.”
During tests, the nanoparticles killed 92% of drug-resistant bacterial cells, leaving the other cells intact, Science Alert reveals. Future treatments based on these findings could be developed for certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria including Salmonella, E. Coli and Staphylococcus.
“Antibiotics are not just a baseline treatment for bacterial infections, but HIV and cancer as well,” researcher Anushree Chatterjee said. “Failure to develop effective treatments for drug-resistant strains is not an option, and that’s what this technology moves closer to solving.”