Superbugs may meet their match in this bacteria-busting molecule

One of humanity’s most impending threats come from organisms too small to spot with the naked eye.

In the next few decades, antibiotic-resistant superbugs could become more deadly than cancer, playing a role in 10 million deaths each year. They already contribute to the death of some 700,000 people annually.

“Superbugs are those that become resistant to many of the commonly used antibiotics due to misuse and overuse over the years,” James Hedrick, the lead researcher of advanced organic materials at IBM Research, told Digital Trends. “As they become resistant they become harder and harder to treat. Why worry? There are very few last lines of defense available.”

After nearly losing his leg to a bacterial infection in 2016, Hedrick was inspired to find a solution to the global superbug problem. He and his team partnered with the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore to create a synthetic molecule capable of killing five types of superbugs with limited side effects, according to a paper the team published last week in the journal Nature Communications. Their hope is that this molecule can be used to create antimicrobial drugs capable of treating antibiotic-resistant infections.

“Our macromolecular antimicrobials mimic, to some degree, our innate immune system.” Hedrick said, “That is, antimicrobial peptides. This is a synthetic version of these natural polymers that act against the ‘ESKAPE’ pathogens that are responsible for most hospital-acquired infections. Moreover, it works on multi-drug resistant pathogens. This paper is the first example of a synthetic polymer that has been used in vivo to eradicate several different types of infections. The polymer is uniquely designed such that it does its business and then rapidly degrades into non-toxic byproducts that are easily passed from the body. Finally, serial sublethal passages of the polymer with bacteria, designed to promote resistance, did not facilitate any resistance.”

In their paper, Hedrick and his colleagues demonstrated for the first time that a biodegradable synthetic molecule can have a broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity in mice with limited toxicity. The study also gives weight to the new “macromolecular therapeutics” research field, which may be our best bet to quell the emergence of superbugs.

Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.

Get a new Nintendo Switch? You'll need to grab these accessories

The Switch is a capable console right out of the box, but it has its limitations. Thankfully, these Nintendo Switch accessories will allow you to make the most of Nintendo's latest console.

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Scientists use drone to map Icelandic cave in preparation for Mars exploration

Researchers from the SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology have demonstrated a way that astronauts may be able to map Martian caves using a Lidar-equipped drone that can travel autonomously without GPS.
Emerging Tech

A 3D printer the size of a small barn will produce entire homes in Saudi Arabia

If you’re looking for a 3D printer that can comfortably fit on the side of your desk… well, Danish company Cobod International’s enormous new 3D house printer probably isn’t for you.

Need a ride? Amazon is slashing prices on popular electric scooters

If you’re not much of a cyclist or if you’re looking for a lazier way to zip about town, an electric scooter should be right up your alley. Two of our favorites, the foldable Glion Dolly and the eco-friendly Razor scooter, are on sale…
Emerging Tech

Unexpected particle plumes discovered jetting out of asteroid Bennu

The OSIRIS-REx craft traveled to asteroid Bennu last year and won't return until 2023. But the mission is already throwing up unexpected findings, like plumes of particles which are being ejected from the surface of the asteroid.
Emerging Tech

Trip to Neptune’s moon, Triton, could inform search for extraterrestrial life

NASA has proposed sending a craft to Neptune to study its largest moon, Triton. Studying Triton could offer clues to how liquid water is maintained on planets, which may indicate what to look for when searching for life beyond our planet.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover passes its tests with flying colors

The Mars 2020 rover team has been undertaking a series of tests to see if the craft will be able to launch, navigate, and land on the Red Planet. Called Systems Test 1, or ST1, these tests represent the first test drive of the new rover.

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Petzl to Tikkid, here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Emerging Tech

Spacewalk a success as astronauts upgrade batteries on the ISS

The International Space Station was treated to some new batteries on Friday, thanks to two NASA astronauts who took a spacewalk for nearly seven hours in order to complete the upgrades.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!