Fighting bacteria with nanotechnology

Nanoparticles with microbial properties have proven effective in fighting bacteria; however, some may cause health risks to humans such as damage to the lungs. But now, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have developed a technique for making nanoparticles safer by suspending them in water.

These droplets — called nanobombs by Philip Demokritou, associate professor of aerosol physics and director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology, and colleagues — reduced concentrations of a mycobacterium similar to the one that causes tuberculosis by more than 50%, according to a paper published March 13, 2014 in Nanomedicine.

“It’s all about reducing the risk of transmission,” Demokritou told The Economist in a June 7, 2014 article. “There is not any technology out there to completely eliminate bacteria, but if you can you reduce rates by a half, that has huge implications for preventive policies.”

The researchers also found that mice exposed to the nanobombs at six times the concentration used for attacking bacteria showed no signs of lung damage. Demokritou hypothesizes that the nanobombs are neutralized by the fluid lining of the mice’s’ lungs.

Read Nanomedicine abstract: Mycobacteria inactivation using engineered water nanostructures

Read Economist article: A new bug killer

Read Harvard Public Health’s coverage of nanotechnology research at HSPH: The nano state