Scientists have made an advance in the fight against resistant hospital superbugs.
The team from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast has developed the first innovative antibacterial gel that acts to kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa, staphylococci and E.coli using natural proteins.
They say the gels have the ability to break down the thick jelly-like coating, known as biofilms, which cover bacteria, making them highly resistant to current treatments, while leaving healthy cells unaffected.
Dr Garry Laverty from QUB, the lead researcher of the project, said when bacteria attach to surfaces, including medical implants such as hip replacements and catheters, they produce a jelly-like substance called the biofilm.
“This protective layer is almost impossible for current antibiotics to penetrate through. Therefore, bacteria deep within this protective layer are resistant as they remain unexposed to the therapy. They grow and thrive on surfaces to cause infections that are very difficult to treat.”
“The only option is often to remove the medical implant leading to further pain and discomfort for the patient. Our gels would prevent this”
Dr Lafferty said the gels are unique as they target and kill the most resistant forms of hospital superbugs.The gels are composed of the building blocks of natural proteins, called peptides.
“These are same ingredients that form human tissue. These molecules are modified slightly in the laboratory to allow them to form gels that will rapidly kill bacteria. .”
The research is part of an international collaboration between the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s and the School of Chemistry at Brandeis University, Waltham, USA. It will be published in the journal Biomacromolecules next month.