Killing superbugs without antibiotics

  • 13/09/2016
Killing superbugs without antibiotics

Australian researchers have uncovered a potential breakthrough to better treat antibiotic resistant superbugs.

The star-shaped peptide polymer - a chain of amino acids - has been shown to be effective at treating the mutated bacteria.

University of Melbourne's Professor Greg Qiao says there doesn't appear to be the same build-up of resistance.

"They actually still kill them after the 600th generation of the mutation."

The discovery was made by 24-year-old PhD student Shu Lam.

Killing superbugs without antibiotics

Shu Lam (supplied)

"It kills bacteria in multiple ways," Ms Lam says. "We designed it to break the cell wall apart but we also found it can trigger the cell to kill itself."

Previous attempts to use peptides to kill bacteria have been successful, but also harmed the host. Ms Lam's creations are too large to hurt healthy cells.

"With this polymerised peptide we are talking the difference in scale between a mouse and an elephant," says Prof Qiao.

"The large peptide molecules can't enter the [healthy] cells."

While the signs are promising, more research is needed to ensure they're safe to use.