25-year-old Malaysian PhD student and her team may have found a solution to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, commonly known as ‘superbugs’!
Lam Shu Jie, who’s currently studying at Melbourne University School of Engineering, found a new treatment method, which uses star-shaped structures called structurally nano-engineered anti-microbial peptide polymers (SNAPPs).
According to the team’s article, SNAPPs is a class of bacteria which is antibiotic resistant and doesn’t hurt healthy cells. Unlike antibiotics which attempt to kill the bugs chemically, the star-shaped protein molecules defeat them by ‘ripping apart their cell walls’.
In recent years, superbugs and antibiotic resistance have been getting worse. It was estimated that by 2050, superbugs will kill more people than cancer! That’s really scary!
Hence, the discovery of the star-shaped bacteria by Shu Lam and her team could bring real change to the whole world!
“These kinds of bacteria have evolved and become really difficult to kill, due to the fact that they’ve become resistant or unable to be treated by currently-available antibiotics.”
This is a great discovery in the world of medicine, and it’s extremely important to humankind!
“Nowadays we already see a lot of people admitted to hospital or dying from bacterial infections that used to be quite easy to treat but aren’t anymore. In the western world, people have become accustomed to taking antibiotics as soon as they get sick and the overuse of antibiotics is causing this resistance in the wider population.”
“For example, when we get a cold we tend to think that it’s probably because of a bacterial infection and we’ll just get some antibiotics from the doctor. But, a cold can be caused by a virus and the knowledge from the public about this isn’t that strong.”
“And if you do need to take antibiotics, make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions and finish taking the whole course of medication. What happens when you don’t finish the entire course that’s given to you, is that not all the bacteria is wiped out and there’s still a small population of it living inside your body. This bacteria could evolve and become superbugs.
What I’ve discovered is a class of new antimicrobial agents. We hope that these will be replacements for antibiotics. They come in the form of tiny star-shaped molecules that we can make in our lab and they’re made from short chains of proteins.”
Shu Lam’s discovery is very significant to everyone in the world. But of course, she still needs to do more research to make sure that the bacteria can really work. There’s still a long way to go before it can be developed into a readily-available drug.
“Well, obviously we need to do more research to assess if these molecules have any other side-effects on the body, but currently, the preliminary results are showing that they kill the bacteria but not the healthy cells of the body.”
Everyone is putting their hope in Shu Lam and her team to solve this superbugs problem! Hopefully they will be able to prove their research right!