IBM nanogel explodes bacterial invaders – could replace antibiotics

According to a report on Britain’s Daily Mail website, computer giant IBM announced the discovery of a radical new nano-gel that “attacks microbial biofilms” (bacteria groups that stick together in diseased cells and are present in 80% of all infections). 
These bacterial biofilms are often resistant to antibiotics, which has allowed nature to develop super-resistant bacteria. IBM believes its new gel may eventually replace the use of antibiotics – and eventually lead to eliminating modern-day hospital superbugs.
Staphylococcus on catheter
Staphylococcus on catheter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Antibiotics continue to become less effective. And while bleach and alcohol still can kill germs on surfaces, they don’t often work well in  applications involving human tissue.
IBM and The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology teamed up to address these issues by developing this new synthetic hydrogel, reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek. They say the gel is “the first-ever to be biodegradable, biocompatible and non-toxic” – and is exactly what’s needed to begin protecting hospital workers, visitors and patients from serious infection.

Considered a radically new hydrogel, this substance, when applied to contaminated surfaces, results in its “positive charge attract[ing] all negatively charged microbial membranes, like powerful gravitation into a black hole.” 

But whereas “most antibiotics and hydrogels target the internal machinery of bacteria to prevent replication,” this gel kills by disrupting cell membranes (exploding cells) – a method that doesn’t allow the bacteria to develop resistance.

This sounds incredibly promising – another moment when human discoveries may save us from decreasing effectiveness of previous inventions. Having just read an article about how using anti-bacterial soaps sends more “stuff” out into the world that helps bacteria develop resistance, I’m especially excited to hear this method of fighting bacteria will not contribute to that problem.
Cross your fingers that this discovery can be followed through quickly and made available before you need, say, open-heart or joint replacement surgery. It’s hell to have to worry you might recover fine from your operation but die of an infection you caught in the hospital.
Enhanced by Zemanta