Novel nanotech improves cystic fibrosis antibiotic by 100,000-fold
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Novel nanotech improves cystic fibrosis antibiotic by 100,000-fold

Novel nanotech improves cystic fibrosis antibiotic by 100,000-fold

Cystic fibrosis is causing severe impairments to a person’s lungs, airways and digestive system, trapping bacteria and leading to recurrent infections. Lung failure is the major cause of death for people with this disease. World-first nanotechnology developed by the University of South Australia could dramatically improve quality of live of thousands of people living with cystic fibrosis as groundbreaking research shows it can improve the effectiveness of tobramycin, increasing its efficacy by up to 100,000-fold. The new technology uses a biomimetic nanostructured material to augment tobramycin – the antibiotic prescribed to treat chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infections in severe cases of cystic fibrosis – eradicating the infection in as little as two doses. A University of South Australia (UniSA) research team, which includes Professor Clive Prestidge, Dr Nicky Thomas, and PhD candidate, Chelsea Thorn, enhanced tobramycin with a biometric, nanostructured, lipid liquid crystal nanoparticle (LCNP)-based material, testing it on a new lung infection model to showcase its unique ability to penetrate the dense surface of the bacteria and kill the infection. “Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent, chronic lung infections and limits a person’s ability to breathe,” Thorn says. “The disease causes thick, sticky mucus to clog a person’s airways, attracting germs and bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which leads to recurring infections and blockages”. Tobramycin is commonly used to treat these infections but increasingly antibiotics are failing to make any significant difference to lung infections, leaving sufferers requiring life-long antibiotic therapy administered every month.


After four hours, if the infection is not treated it kills all the cells (line 1); Unformulated tobramycin keeps the cells alive, but it does not eradicate the infection (line 2); Nano-enhanced tobramycin eradicates the infection. © University of South Australia.

Tobramycin works by inhibiting the synthesis of bacteria and causing cell membrane damage. Yet, as it’s a concentration-dependent antibiotic, achieving a sufficiently high concentration is critical,” Dr Thomas says. “Our technology improves the performance of tobramycin without increasing the toxicity of the drug, so what we’re doing is a far more effective and efficient treatment for chronic lung infections.” The technology is currently entering pre-clinical trials and hopes to be on the market in the next five years.


Related papers:
* Thorn, C. R., Carvalho-Wodarz, C. D., Horstmann, J. C., Lehr, C-M., Prestidge, C. A., Thomas, N., “Tobramycin liquid crystal nanoparticles eradicate cystic fibrosis-related Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms”. Small: 2021.
* Thorn, C. R., Raju, D., Lacdao, I., Gilbert, S., Sivarajah, P., Howell, P. L., Prestidge, C., Thomas, N., “Protective liquid crystal nanoparticles for targeted delivery of PslG – a biofilm dispersing enzyme”. ACS Infectious Diseases: 2021. Online ahead of print: