SEP 26, 2020 4:33 AM PDT

Eliminating Biofilms with Green Tea-Derived Nanobots

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Bacteria are everywhere in our world, and while the vast majority are harmless, some can cause dangerous infections. Bacteria, including bacterial pathogens, can also form tough communities called biofilms. As bacteria multiply and spread over a surface, the coating of microbes that is generated is difficult to destroy, and can help the individual microbes overcome challenges in their environment that might otherwise be deadly to individual microbes or small patches of bacteria.

Researchers are constantly searching for new ways to destroy biofilms, which can be a persistent problem on essential medical devices like catheters and prosthetic joints. New work reported in  ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces describes magnetically propelled microbots that researchers created using tea buds. They’ve called these biofilm-destroying devices "T-Budbots," and they are shown in the video.

Since biofilms can impair recovery and be a potential source of infections, clinicians try to eliminate them with repeated rounds of antibiotics, but the high doses that are necessary can have many side effects. In some cases, medical devices have to be removed and replaced, a costly and invasive process.

Researchers wanted to develop microbots that were compatible with a biological organism and could be manipulated with magnets so that biofilms could be totally removed. They began by using tea buds from the Camellia sinensis plant; they wanted something non-toxic, porous, cheap, and biodegradable. Polyphenols are also found in tea, and are an added bonus because they have antimicrobial properties.

The tea buds were ground up so the researchers could isolate porous microparticles from them, which were then coated with magnetite nanoparticles. These magnetic particles would enable the device to be controlled with a magnet. The antibiotic ciprofloxacin was then embedded into the pores of the nanoparticles.

The investigators found that the T-Budbots released the most antibiotic when conditions were acidic, something that happens in bacterial infections. They were able to put the microbots on bacterial biofilms growing in dishes, and could steer them around with magnets. The T-Budbots were able to get into the biofilm, kill the bacteria, and remove the debris, leaving only a clear path behind them in the dish.

There is more work to be done before these microbots will be ready for use in people, acknowledged the study authors, but the study shows that it’s feasible.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via American Chemical Society, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 28, 2020
Microbiology
Scientists Find a Molecule That Causes Body Odor
JUL 28, 2020
Scientists Find a Molecule That Causes Body Odor
Most people will go to great lengths to prevent body odor. Now scientists have identified a bacterial enzyme that is a s ...
AUG 11, 2020
Microbiology
A New Microbe is Discovered in an 'Unnatural' Environment
AUG 11, 2020
A New Microbe is Discovered in an 'Unnatural' Environment
While we can exert a degree of control over our surroundings, we still share the world and our bodies with microbes.
AUG 14, 2020
Microbiology
Seasonal Flu Vaccine Immunity Probably Wears Off
AUG 14, 2020
Seasonal Flu Vaccine Immunity Probably Wears Off
From year to year, the influenza virus mutates and swaps genes with other flu viruses, and we need a new vaccine. But th ...
AUG 28, 2020
Microbiology
As Buildings Reopen After Lockdowns, They Find Legionella
AUG 28, 2020
As Buildings Reopen After Lockdowns, They Find Legionella
Several schools and even buildings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified Legionella ba ...
SEP 01, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Smell Cells Are Especially Good at Fighting the Flu
SEP 01, 2020
Smell Cells Are Especially Good at Fighting the Flu
All over the body, cells line organs and vessels, forming protective barriers. But pathogens like the flu have gained th ...
OCT 09, 2020
Microbiology
Two Early Relatives of Rubella Are Discovered
OCT 09, 2020
Two Early Relatives of Rubella Are Discovered
Rubella is a contagious, airborne viral infection that can lead to rash, fever, and sore throat. It's especially dangero ...
Loading Comments...