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The push to develop new antibiotics to fight the growing superbug crisis is getting help from a new source: tiny, light-activated nanoparticles known as quantum dots. Here’s what lead researcher Prashant Nagpal of University of Colorado Boulder said about the findings, published in the new Nature Materials.

What are you hoping to target with these nanoparticles?

We designed nanoparticles that have some phenotypic selectivity that will only target drug-resistant superbugs, but won’t kill or affect our healthy cells. We picked out five of the worst bacteria strains we’ve seen over the years, and tested them against all the clinical antibiotics we had access to. They were resistant to everything. Then we tried the nanoparticles [in vitro], and this tiny little nanoparticle killed 92 percent of the bugs.

And how does light work to trigger the nanoparticles?

If these nanoparticles don’t see light, they don’t get triggered, so you can control when they act. For topical infections, like in a surface wound, the delivery mechanism would be a patch of these nanoparticles that sticks to the surface, and you’d have patients sit in a well-lit room or have an LED patch with the particles. To test for use in systemic infections throughout the body, we’d like to try to inject these particles into the bloodstream and see where they go and if they distribute evenly throughout body.


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