Sponging up bacterial infections

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a pretty scary thing, which is why researchers are working so hard to come up with new and creative ways to fight them off. Take for example nanosponges.

In a presentation from the Experimental Biology meeting in Chicago last month, researchers from the University of California in San Diego are testing the use of nanosponges (shown on the right in the figure below) to bind and inactivate toxins that are released from bacteria.  

Image Credit: Tamara Escajadillo, University of California, San Diego

Nanosponges are basically the membrane of red blood cells from which the contents have been removed. These red blood cell membranes are then engineered to have a core capable of soaking up toxins. In fact, these nanosponges were shown to reduce the severity of A Streptococcus infections. Toxins that are released by A Streptococcus create holes in the membranes of cells within our bodies, resulting in cell dysfunction or death. This is where the nanosponges come to the rescue. They can soak up and inactivate bacterial toxins and thereby reduce potential damage.

Sure this sounds great in a petri dish of cells, but what about in an animal? The team tested this and found that the nanosponges could reduce the severity of necrotizing fasciitis in mice with the disease. While this research is a long way from clinical trials, it is an outstanding start to thinking outside the box when it comes to treating antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.


American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) Eureka Alert press release.

More like this

Have the nanosponges been tested on any other disease, except necrotizing faciitis?

By Missy Barnes (not verified) on 18 Aug 2017 #permalink