Light-activated nanoparticles, also known as quantum dots, can provide a crucial boost in the effectiveness of antibiotic treatments. These quantum dots used to combat drug-resistant superbugs, such as E. coli and Salmonella.
Multi-drug resistant pathogens, which evolve their defenses faster than new antibiotic treatments. In 2013, the production of superbug killers cost the United States around $20 billion in direct healthcare costs, and another $35 billion in wasted labor.
However, researchers able to re-potentiate existing antibiotics for certain clinical isolate infections by introducing nano-engineered quantum dots. The particles deployed selectively and activated or deactivated using specific wavelengths of light.
The dots release superoxide, a chemical species that interferes with the bacteria’s metabolic and cellular processes, triggering a fight response that makes it more susceptible to the original antibiotic.
“We’ve developed a one-two knockout punch,” said Prashant Nagpal, an assistant professor in the University of Colorado Boulder. The bacteria’s natural fight reaction to the dots leaves it more vulnerable.
The findings show that the dots reduced the effective antibiotic resistance of the clinical isolate infections by a factor of 1,000 without producing adverse side-effects.
Anushree Chatterjee, co-lead author of the study, said, we are thinking more like the bug. This is a novel strategy that plays against the infection’s normal strength and catalyzes the antibiotic instead.
The quantum dots have the advantage to work selectively on an intracellular level. For example, salmonella can grow and reproduce inside host cells. However, the dots are small enough to slip inside and help clear the infection from within.
Chatterjee said, the most important advantage of the quantum dot technology is that it offers clinicians an adaptable multifaceted approach to fighting infections that are already straining the limits of current treatments.
The researchers visualize quantum dots as a kind of technology that can be scaled and modified to combat a wide range of infections and potentially expand to other therapeutic applications.
More information: [Science Advances]