Scared of dangerous bacteria? Whip it with waste plastics converted-nanofibers!



What can be produced from waste plastic bottles (PET bottles) after recycling? Clothes, carpets, equipments …from now on, include ‘nanomedicine’ as well.

Researchers from IBM, San Jose (California, US) and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Singapore have made a breakthrough in nanomedicine by converting common plastic materials like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into non-toxic, biocompatible nanomedicine to kill bacteria, especially MRSA.

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria that was once confined to hospitals/ health facilities but now is reaching far beyond hospitals to infect schoolchildren, soldiers, prison inmates, even NFL players. None has caused more frustrations and none has spread more widely than MRSA in recent times.

USA TODAY examination finds that MRSA sickens hundreds of thousands of Americans each year in various ways, from minor skin boils to deadly pneumonia, claimed over 20,000 lives.

Although there has been promising research going around the world to stop its persistence, no remarkable developments have so far been achieved. IBM team in collaboration with IBN developed efficient and disease-specific antifungal agent to mitigate this growing bacteria problem.

IBM scientists applied an organic catalytic process to facilitate the transformation of waste plastic bottle (PET) into entirely new molecules that can be transformed into antifungal agents.  These new antifungal agents self-assemble through a hydrogen-bonding process, sticking to each other in a polymer-like fashion to form nanofibers, which the scientists nick named them as “Ninja polymers”.  This novel nanofiber carries a positive charge and can selectively target and attach to only the negatively-charged deadly bacteria (MRSA for example) based on electrostatic interaction. Nanofiber structure benefits by increasing the local concentration of cationic charges and compound mass, thanks to its high aspect ratio and high surface area. This facilitates the targeting of the fungal membrane and its subsequent lysis, enabling the fungi to be destroyed at low concentrations. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the nanofibers, which is the lowest concentration that inhibits the visible growth of fungi, demonstrated strong antifungal activity against multiple types of fungal infections.

IBN, Singapore studies confirmed that the nanofibers eradicated more than 99.9% of C. albicans, a fungal infection after a single hour of incubation and indicated no resistance after 11 treatments, compared to the 6 treatments stability of conventional antifungal drugs.

The team also noted that nanofibers effectively dispersed fungal biofilms after one-time treatment while conventional antifungal drugs were not effective. The nanofibers were found to significantly decrease the number of fungi, hinder new fungal structure growth in the cornea and reduce the severity of existing eye inflammation.  Their studies also provided that these ninja nanofibers were excellent in vitro biocompatibility.  This breakthrough helps to eradicate drug-resistant and drug-sensitive fungi strains and fungal biofilms without harming surrounding healthy cells.

This advance will expand the scope of polymeric nanofibers in fighting diseases ranging from breast cancer to MRSA.

The post was originally posted by Nafigate at