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Bandages For Fighting Bad Bacteria

Pathogenic bacteria become the agents of their own destruction in a new antimicrobial system

by Bethany Halford
May 10, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 19

Pathogenic bacteria become the agents of their own destruction in a new antimicrobial system developed by chemists in England. The University of Bath’s Toby A. Jenkins and coworkers have created phospholipid vesicles filled with microbicide sodium azide (NaN3); when exposed to toxins released by pathogenic bacteria, the vesicles leak or burst (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 6566). “This concept is based on the generalization that a majority of pathogenic bacteria secrete virulence factors such as toxins and lipases that actively damage cell membranes, typically observed as tissue damage around infected wounds, while nonpathogenic bacteria do not,” the researchers explain. While the bad-bacteria-busting vesicles easily knock off dangerous Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, harmless strains of Escherichia coli go unscathed. In their effort to develop bacteria-fighting bandages, the researchers attached the vesicles to nonwoven polypropylene fabric. And adding a colorimetric or fluorometric agent to the vesicles could give doctors and patients a visual cue that a wound is infected. “The ultimate aim of this work is to attempt to engineer a ‘smart’ wound-dressing system that only releases an encapsulated antimicrobial agent in the presence of pathogenic bacteria, without responding to commensal/harmless bacteria,” Jenkins and coworkers note.


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