Nano 'mummies' a real horror show for infections

The winner of the NanoMetaphor of the Week contest comes from Mohamed El-Newehy of King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He describes his research group's new drug-delivery technology as nanofibers that encapsulate antibiotics "like a mummy inside a sarcophagus" that destroys bacteria so completely that the remains are transformed to "mere ghosts." This effective midnight-movie imagery was part of El-Newehy's presentation at the American Chemical Society's annual expo.

El-Newehy's research engages in the ongoing war against antibiotic-resistant infections. "There is an urgent need to identify new antibiotics that work in different ways that can overcome resistance," he said in a release. "Our approach is not a new antibiotic, but a new way of delivering existing antibiotics."

His technique involves placing common antibiotics inside nanofibers made of polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene oxide. He describes the fibers as "wisps of plastic-like material so small that peach hair or a strand of spider silk are gigantic by comparison." The researchers encapsulated multiple antibiotics directly into the fiber and discovered they were effective in killing a variety of bacteria and fungi, including E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, two increasingly drug-resistant microbes, the release said.

"When treated with antibiotics wrapped in nanofibers, the microbes were severely damaged and many cells were enlarged, elongated, fragmented, or left as just empty ghosts," El-Newehy said in the release. "By wrapping the anti-microbial agents in the fibers, it makes the drug action more focused and the agents are effective for a longer period of time than with conventional delivery techniques."

- take a look at the release