Environment Secret weapon strikes back at superbugs

Secret weapon strikes back at superbugs

Tiny, star-shaped molecules are effective at killing bacteria that can no longer be killed by current antibiotics, new research shows.

The star-shaped structures are short chains of proteins called ‘peptide polymers’, and were created by a team from the Melbourne School of Engineering.

Over time bacteria mutate to protect themselves against antibiotics, making treatment no longer effective. These mutated bacteria are known as ‘superbugs’.

“It is estimated that the rise of superbugs will cause up to ten million deaths a year by 2050,” said Professor Greg Qiao from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

The team discovered that their star-shaped peptide polymers can kill bacteria with multiple pathways, unlike most antibiotics which kill with a single pathway.

One of these pathways includes ‘ripping apart’ the bacteria cell wall.

While more research is needed, Professor Qiao and his team believe that their discovery is the beginning of unlocking a new treatment for antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

You can find out more about this project here. [Story credit: University of Melbourne newsroom]

Amazing research like this is only possible if we support Australia’s universities. If you want to keep Australia clever, please sign the petition below.