Friday, November 22, 2013

Changing the Conversation: Polymers Disrupt Bacterial Communication

News Brief by Sam Kessel

Infectious, drug resistant bacteria are causing a public health crisis. According to the CDC, multi-drug resistant bacteria kill 23,000 Americans each year. Genetically modified bacteria are being used to synthesize protein products for use in agriculture, energy and medicine, including drugs to treat diabetes and hemophilia. Bacteria have a huge influence on our world as infectious agents and as tools for industry.

The researchers at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, have found materials that can be used to reduce the infectious capability of disease causing bacteria, and improve the drug producing capabilities of genetically modified bacteria. This research will change the way multidrug resistant bacterial infections are treated. Instead of using antibiotics that directly kill bacteria, the next generation of antimicrobials will use materials made of long chains of molecules, called polymers, to inhibit bacterial communication. There were two types of polymers used in this study: the first, poly vinyl alcohol (PVA), impacted bacterial communications; the second, a poly-methacrylamide, bound bacteria into small clusters. The first polymer bound to bacterial signaling molecules and interfered with bacteria's ability to communicate with other bacteria, thus reducing their infectious capability. The second polymer encapsulated bacteria into small clusters. By placing the bacteria so closely together, cell-to-cell signaling was enhanced and the amount of toxins produced by a bacterium was increased.
While this second polymer may not be useful as an anitbiotic, it could be used to increase the productivity of genetically modified bacteria. Using a combination of the two polymers, it may be possible to improve the yields of beneficial bacterial products.

 Ultimately, this research shows the potential of using polymers to treat severe bacterial infections and harness the power of genetically modified bacteria.

Changing the Conversation: Polymers Disrupt Bacterial Communication. (2013, November 11). ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

Threat Report 2013. (2013, September 16). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from

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