Researchers have found that a specially designed polycarbonate molecule holds promise in the fight against superbugs, microbes that resist a range of conventional drugs.
Scientists at IBM and Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology found the new polymer can kill five deadly types of bacteria resistant to multiple drugs without side effects. Unlike other approaches to polymer-based anti-microbials, this new polymer does not appear toxic, is biodegradable and attacks a broad selection of bacteria.
"This is another example of how to exploit polymer science to bring it to medicine," James Hedrick told Plastics News in a phone interview.
Hedrick led the team at IBM's Almaden, Calif., laboratories. Researchers there and in Singapore collaborated on the project. Hedrick has been leading several research projects exploring exotic uses for new polymers. In 2016, IBM researchers and other scientists discovered polymers that can attack viruses.
The new research "rounds out our ability to someday treat a spectrum of infectious diseases with a single, new type of mechanism without the onset of resistance," Hedrick stated in a March 6 news release from Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
The research was reported by the IBM and IBN teams March 5 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications.
Researchers created a polycarbonate with a guanidinium unit attached. Guanidinium is an easily synthesized molecule containing three nitrogen atoms and six hydrogen atoms. It has limited medical usefulness when used in its simplest forms.