Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are one of the biggest problems that modern medicine is facing. Just like every other living organism that has been found and studied, bacteria also evolve and develop resistance to potential threats, both natural and man-made. This has devastating effects on people who get infected by such microorganisms. According to a recent study, about 700.000 people die every year because of bacteria that are resistant to known antibiotics.
Shu Lam (in the photo), a PhD student from the University of Melbourne, has invented a new method of dealing with bacteria. It can literally change antibacterial therapy that is used nowadays in modern medicine since it has a totally different approach compared to the one scientists have been following. Ironically, the new method does not involve antibiotics at all.
What Shu Lam achieved was the creation of a polymer that has the shape of a star, called Structurally Nanoengineered Antimicrobial Peptide Polymer, or just SNAPP. Its mechanism of actions is really simple; the polymer attacks and kills bacteria without the need for antibiotics or any other chemical supplement. We can consider it to be something like a “killer robot” – an extremely small one but still very effective. It causes the harmful bacteria to self-destruct by destroying their cell walls. But that’s not all.
Although SNAPPs are really tiny, they are, nevertheless, big enough to be unable to enter or damage healthy cells in any way. To make things even better, unlike almost all contemporary antibiotics used to fight deadly bacteria, SNAPPs have way less or even zero side effects.
The new method is definitely a “game changer”, especially since it has already been tested on six different bacteria that have been characterized as drug resistant, and even one real superbug that has been highly resistant to most modern antibiotics.
However, despite such promising preliminary results, researchers claim that it is way too early to be excited about the potential usage of SNAPPs. Dealing with bacteria in laboratory conditions is, in some ways, a bit different than dealing with the same bacteria in the human body, mainly because not all people’s immune system reacts to a treatment the same way.
The SNAPP invention is a phenomenal breakthrough that offers us huge potential though, and may even allow us to battle diseases and medical conditions against which nothing has worked so far. An alternative to antibiotics is needed now more than ever since the superbugs issue has become so large recently that the United Nations characterized it as a global health problem. All we can do at the moment is be patient and see if this invention is indeed our “ticket” to a new era that could make antibiotics obsolete.