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Light-triggered nanoparticles kill drug-resistant bacteria

The threat of 'superbugs' may be cured by something very, very small.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
January 18, 2016
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Many current attempts at killing drug-resistant "superbugs" amount to racing against time, whether it's improving research technology or developing germ-fighting techniques that are less likely to promote resistance. That's not really an effective long-term strategy, is it? However, University of Colorado scientists might have a more permanent solution. They've developed light-triggered nanoparticles (specifically, quantum dots) that can kill stubborn bacteria on demand. They're dormant when it's dark, but shining the right light wavelength will make the particles attack infected cells. And unlike metal nanoparticles, they won't inadvertently wreck healthy cells in the process.

It is possible that bacteria will adapt to the nanoparticles, but it should be much harder than it is for them to counter conventional medicine. Doctors could simply customize the quantum dots as needed and, hopefully, keep one step ahead. While there's still a lot of work to be done before this kind of treatment is ready for humans, it'll be worth the wait if it turns the tide in a war where regular antibiotics are losing ground.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

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