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Nano-probes to track how antibiotics work against bacteria


Sydney : Researchers have found a way of using tiny nano-probes to help understand how and why an antibiotic is effective against bacteria. Bacteria such as MRSA, commonly known as Golden Staph, are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, posing a major community health problem.

Matt Cooper, a professor at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, will establish a research programme in the development of antibiotics and antifungals that are active against drug-resistant pathogens.

“It order to attack this problem we need to understand not only the ways in which bacteria develop and exhibit resistance to antibiotics, but also how new antibiotics can work to kill or slow the growth of resistant bacteria,” Cooper said.

To study antibiotic action, a London Centre for Nanotechnology team made nano-probes coated with molecules found in bacterial cell walls from normal bacteria and bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

They then added doses of the “last resort” antibiotic vancomycin to the system, and found that probes from normal bacteria were stressed and changed shape, whereas probes from resistant bacteria were only weakly affected.

These bent probes could be detected with a laser, indicating that the antibiotic was applying a force to the surface, said a Queensland release.

“There is only a tiny molecular difference between resistant and non-resistant bacteria. We now know that these probes can detect that difference and can do so within minutes,” Cooper said.