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Scientists Are Killing Superbugs With Tiny Stars

Antibiotics have become a matter of public conversation and even controversy as their use is becoming more widespread in medicine, farming, and hygiene. As antibiotics kill off scores and scores of susceptible bacteria, new drug-resistant forms of germs are evolving in response – some of which represent a dire threat to humankind.

So-called "superbugs" like the MRSA pictured here do not respond to conventional antibiotic drugs.

So-called “superbugs” like the MRSA pictured here do not respond to conventional antibiotic drugs.

Scientists around the world are scrambling to find methods to defeat these “superbugs” which laugh in the face of current antibiotic drugs. While many past attempts at killing superbugs have been unsuccessful, a new treatment method is showing promise at defending humankind from these untreatable bacteria.

Yep, that's a dish full of MRSA.

Yep, that’s a dish full of MRSA: the bug that will kill us all.

The researchers behind this new therapy are based out of the University of Melbourne, and have published their results in Nature Microbiology. According to Greg Qiao, one of the lead authors in this study, superbugs are becoming more and more dangerous around the world:

It is estimated that the rise of superbugs will cause up to ten million deaths a year by 2050. In addition, there have only been one or two new antibiotics developed in the last 30 years.

Thus, the need for new treatments is a timely one – that’s where this new development comes in. Unlike most past antibiotic treatments, this new method does not depend on chemical antibiotic agents to attack the cell walls of bacteria. Instead, this new treatment uses nano-scale grains of an advanced star-shaped polymer to physically break apart and destroy drug-resistant bacteria. Imagine swallowing a pill full of microscopic ninja stars that fly straight towards bacteria and you’ll get the picture.

Images published by Nature Microbiology show the star-shaped polymers breaking apart bacteria.

Images published by Nature Microbiology show the star-shaped polymers breaking apart bacteria.

The researchers behind this study claim that these “structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers”, or SNAPPs, might be the next big weapon in humanity’s war on the superbug:

Overall, SNAPPs show great promise as low-cost and effective antimicrobial agents and may represent a weapon in combating the growing threat of MDR Gram-negative bacteria.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather swallow a bunch of polymer ninja stars than keep guzzling whatever antibiotic chemicals Big Pharma is cranking out. Only if they taste like candy and are shaped like cartoon characters, though.