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Scientists Claim ‘Superbug’ Breakthrough

Peptide gels kill resistant hospital pathogens

According to a new report, scientists at Queen’s University Belfast in the U.K. have made a breakthrough in the fight against the most resistant hospital ‘superbugs.’

A team at the university’s School of Pharmacy has developed the first antibacterial gels that kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa, staphylococci, and Escherichia coli using natural proteins.

The gels have the ability to break down the thick jelly-like coatings (biofilms) that cover bacteria, making them highly resistant to current therapies, while leaving healthy cells unaffected.

Lead researcher Dr. Garry Laverty 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.”

“Our gels are unique as they target and kill the most resistant forms of hospital superbugs. It involves the use of gels composed of the building blocks of natural proteins, called peptides — the 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 new approach will be published in the journal Biomacromolecules next month.

Source: Queen’s University Belfast; August 19, 2014.

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