When it comes to our health there are bacteria that are beneficial, and there are also bacteria that are quite detrimental. Some UK researchers wanted to address this problem of why some bacteria are pathogenic and some are not. The process of answering that question led them to demonstrating how a nanocapsule system can be a “nano-Trojan horse” for combating only harmful bacteria in infections while leaving 'friendly' bacteria untouched.
The work, which was conducted at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath and originally published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, is ultimately a proposal for a nanocapsule system that administers antimicrobial treatments only in the presence of pathogenic bacteria.
As one of the researchers, Toby Jenkins, explains in the Nanowerk Spotlight piece linked to above it was discerning the property that makes some bacteria pathogenic that made it possible to figure out a way of destroying them. “Basically, we have found a way so that we can use the property that makes some (not all) bacteria pathogenic by presenting them with capsules which bacterial secretion toxins attack (as if they are healthy tissue). Inside the capsules is an antimicrobial or a dye," says Jenkins.
This possibility of having a “smart” wound dressing that would kill harmful bacteria while ignoring the billions of harmless bacteria would be of critical importance to the treatment of burn victims.
"Our advanced wound dressing dressing will work by releasing antibiotics from nanocapsules triggered by the presence of disease-causing pathogenic bacteria, which will target treatment before the infection takes hold," Jenkins explains. "The dressing will also change color when the antibiotic is released, alerting healthcare professionals that there is infection in the wound. This is an important step in treating burns patients, particularly children, where infections can lead to toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal condition."