Monash University researchers have found a way to better understand how nanoparticles could help detect deadly microbes and effectively provide targeted treatments.
Microbiologists, immunologists and engineers came together to conduct the research, which was led by Dr Simon Corrie from Monash University's Department of Chemical Engineering and Professor Ana Traven from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI). "We've brought together labs with expertise in infection, microbiology and immunology with a lab that has expertise in engineering, to do state-of-the-art experiments," Professor Traven told a news portal.
The team explains that a microbe known as candida albicans can become extremely dangerous on devices like the catheters that are implanted in the human body. Even though you can find this microbe in healthy people, it can become a threat to those who are very sick or immune-suppressed.
When it colonizes, this microbe uses a catheter as a way to infect the rest of the body. Researchers say the mortality rate in most patient populations may be as high as 30 to 40 per cent. The team also notes the microbe can resist anti-fungal treatments when it successfully colonizes.
"The idea is that if you can diagnose this infection early, then you can have a much bigger chance of treating it successfully with current anti-fungal drugs and stopping a full-blown systemic infection, but our current diagnostic methods are lacking. A biosensor to detect early stages of colonization would be highly beneficial," Ana Traven, a professor at Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI), told a news portal.
For the study, the team examined the effects of organosilica nanoparticles to determine if it interacted with both C. albicans and immune cells in the blood. The results showed nanoparticles that were tied to fungal cells were not toxic. "They don't kill the microbe, but we can make an anti-fungal particle by binding them to a known anti-fungal drug," Traven told a news portal.
Dr Corrie further explained: "We've identified that these nanoparticles, and by inference a number of different types of nanoparticles, can be made to be interactive with cells of interest."
Adding "We can actually change the surface properties by attaching different things; thereby we can really change the interactions they have with these cells - that's quite significant."
Dr Corrie further explains even though nanoparticles are being investigated in the treatment of cancer, more research is needed to understand how they can be used to tackle infectious diseases. "The other unique thing in this study is that rather than using cells grown in culture, we're also looking at how particles act in whole human blood and with neutrophils extracted from fresh human blood," Dr Corrie told a news portal.
The study's findings were originally published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Interfaces and Material.
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