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End of Superbug? Researchers Discover Star-Shaped Molecule That Could Kill Superbug

Sep 24, 2016 09:51 AM EDT

Australian researchers have discovered an outstanding polymer that could put an end to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria commonly referred to as superbug.

Antibiotics are the only currently available treatment for infection, but the bacteria mutate over time, transforming itself to a so-called superbug. This disease-causing superbug is resistant even to multiple antibiotics, making it an urgent, worldwide concern that is needing swift action.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about two million people get sick from a superbug every year.

In a press release published on the website of Melbourne University, Professor Greg Qiao, the leader of the study, said the recent discovery could save lives of many threatened by the superbug.

"It is estimated that the rise of superbugs will cause up to 10 million deaths a year by 2050. In addition, there have only been one or two new antibiotics developed in the last 30 years."

According to the study published in Nature Microbiology, the bacteria showed no resistance against chains of proteins called ‘structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers' (SNAPPs). The study also showed it can destroy bacteria with several pathways, unlike most antibiotics which do it in a single pathway.

Another impressive finding is that the polymer is not toxic to human and animal bodies. By conducting tests on the red blood cells, the researchers discovered the dosage rate of the polymer would need to be increased by a factor greater than 100 to become toxic.

Huffington Post quoted co-researcher Shu Lam in a press conference, explaining how their study could lead to a breakthrough in health and medicine and how they are still harnessing their finding to fully understand how the polymers work:

"This discovery could potentially be developed as an antibiotic replacement for treating bacterial infections that do not respond to currently available antibiotics anymore."

"We are still at a preliminary stage and need to perform more detailed/comprehensive assessments on the star peptide polymers. A more thorough understanding of how these molecules work in killing bacteria, and whether they work against different bacterial infections."

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