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An international research team led by the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and IBM Research developed a synthetic molecule that can kill five deadly types of multidrug-resistant bacteria with limited, if any, side effects. Their new material could be developed into an antimicrobial drug to treat patients with antibiotic-resistant infections. This finding was reported in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics are a serious health threat. According to the UK Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, superbugs kill around 700,000 people worldwide each year. By 2050, 10 million people could die each year if existing antibiotics continue to lose their effectiveness.
Need - Antimicrobials - Superbugs - Situation - Bacteria
"There is an urgent global need for new antimicrobials that are effective against superbugs. The situation has become more acute because bacteria are starting to develop resistance to the last-line antibiotics, which are given only to patients infected with bacteria resistant to available antibiotics," said Professor Jackie Y. Ying, Executive Director of IBN.
The research community is trying to develop alternatives to antibiotics using synthetic polymers. However, the antimicrobial polymers developed so far are either too toxic for clinical use, not biodegradable or can only target one type of bacteria.
Problem - Dr - Yi - Yan - Yang
To address this problem, Dr. Yi Yan Yang from IBN brought together a multidisciplinary research team from the US, China and Singapore to develop a new class of antimicrobial polymers called guanidinium-functionalized polycarbonates with a unique killing mechanism that can target a broad range of multidrug-resistant bacteria. It is biodegradable and non-toxic to human cells.
The polymer kills bacteria in the following way. First, the polymer binds specifically to the bacterial cell. Then, the polymer is transported across the bacterial cell membrane into the cytoplasm, where it causes precipitation of the cell contents (proteins and genes), resulting in cell death.
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