Can a Dot Help Treat Infection?


In the next three decades, an additional ten million people will die from multi drug-resistant bacteria. One solution to this monumental problem is to create new antibiotics but that can take a decade to develop and approve. Another, more efficient solution, is to optimize the use of current antibiotics.

Using this approach, a novel solution involves something called quantum dots which makes bacteria more susceptible to existing antibiotics. These quantum dots are made of a chemical called cadmium telluride. The molecules are about the width of a strand of DNA which is three nanometers or one fifteenth thousandths the thickness of a sheet of paper.

When these particles are exposed to green light, they lose electrons. The charged subatomic particles then interact with oxygen to form a very reactive molecule called superoxide. Bacteria that interact with these superoxides become damaged which makes them one thousand times more vulnerable to antibiotics. In experiments, the quantum dots were effective against a number of serious disease-causing bacteria including MRSA, Salmonella, Klebsiella and E.coli.

One major weakness of the therapy is that the green light can only penetrate a few millimeters into the skin and tissue so scientists are looking for alternate types of light that can penetrate deeply into tissue and organs. Time will tell if quantum dots will be the lifesaver we need as bacterial superbugs continue to find their way around our arsenal of antibiotics.

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