DEC 26, 2015 05:19 AM PST

Nanotech Weapon Against Hospital Acquired Infections

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Bacterial biofilms are among the biggest scourges in hospitals, causing infections that are difficult to treat because most are antibiotic resistant. However, scientists found that heating up a specialized form of nanoparticles can weaken the biofilm and make them easier to kill.
 
Bacterial biofilm on a indwelling catheter

Microbial organisms are everywhere. We rarely take notice of these things in our daily lives; however they have a big presence in the hospital setting. In its planktonic form, the bacteria grow as single, independent cells, causing acute infections that can be treated with antibiotics. In its biofilm form, the bacteria exist as aggregated colonies that secrete a slimy film, which serves to protect them against the environment.
 
More than 80% of infections are attributed to biofilms. In addition to growing on medical devices like dialysis catheters and contact lenses, biofilms can also dwell inside patients -- in the respiratory, gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, oral cavities, eyes, ears, wounds, heart and cervix. Because the slime protects them against antibiotics, some infections by biofilms are resistant to drugs and develop into a chronic state.

Bacteria in biofilms multiply by dispersing individual cells from the colony. As in the planktonic state, these single cells are much less protected and more vulnerable to drug treatments. Exploiting this biological weakness, researchers at the University New South Wales in Australia found a way to trick the biofilm to disperse into single cells more frequently.
 
Lead by Drs. Cyrille Boyer and Nicolas Barraud, the scientists treated the biofilm with iron oxide nanoparticles and then heated it with a magnetic field. By raising the temperature by at least 5 degrees Celsius, the team found that the biofilm easily shed into single colonies. A polymer coating on the iron oxide nanoparticles facilitated and maintained this dispersed state.
 
Using the opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a model organism, Boyer’s team found that the antibiotic gentamicin killed more bacteria treated with the heated nanoparticles.

Once dispersed, the bacteria are easier to deal with, creating the potential to remove recalcitrant, antimicrobial-tolerant biofilm infections. – Dr. Boyer

The study has huge positive implications for the clinical setting where biofilm infections are rising. If this polymer-coated iron oxide nanoparticle technology can be implemented in hospitals it could dramatically decrease hospital-acquired infections.

Here's another way that scientists are tackling the bacterial biofilms:
 

Sources: Nature Open Reports, UNSW Press release
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
APR 24, 2018
Cancer
APR 24, 2018
CAR-T Cell Therapy 101
Chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T cells) have emerged as a useful tool for cancer treatments in a small number of cancers thus far. This area of treatment research is expanding rapidl...
APR 25, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
APR 25, 2018
Why is dementia going unnoticed in hospitals?
A study in the UK showed that while the rate of diagnosis for dementia is improving, more than a third of all dementia patients still go undiagnosed. The n...
MAY 26, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 26, 2018
Calculate Your Risk For Lung Cancer
A new tool may help reduce the use of CT scans in lung cancer detection, which can cause harm....
JUN 23, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 23, 2018
In a First, Keystone Virus Sickens a Person
A teenage boy in North Central Florida presented with symptoms that defied diagnosis....
JUN 30, 2018
Immunology
JUN 30, 2018
CD4 T Cells Responsible for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
A specific subset of immune cells could be targeted to better treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A new University of Alabama at Birmingham study point...
SEP 01, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 01, 2018
Spit Test for Zika Evolves From HIV Detection
Researchers are developing a test for Zika that uses saliva to identify diagnostic markers of the virus much more quickly than current commercial tests can...
Loading Comments...