Bacteria that resist antibiotic treatment has led to the emergence of so-called superbugs, which constitute a major health threat. A team of Rice University researchers has discovered nanoparticles wrapped in graphene oxide can not only kill these superbugs, but the very genes that lead to their drug-resistance in wastewater.
Part of what makes superbugs such a threat is their ability to pass along genetic information to other bugs to enhance their ability to survive. They essentially “teach” other bacteria how to withstand drug treatment. These genes can thrive in environments such as wastewater plants, finding their way into rivers and streams where they can pass along those drug-resistant traits.
The study aims to not only kill the bacteria, but prevent those genes from spreading to other bugs. The team wrapped nanospheres of bismuth, oxygen, and carbon with an exterior shell made from graphene oxide. The nanospheres job is to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) molecules, which kill the organisms and their drug-resistant genes.
The team found that by encasing the nanospheres in the graphene oxide shell, they were able to produce more than triple the amount of bacteria-killing ROS than spheres without graphene enhancement.