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Nanobiotechnology October 2019 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Ivona Bradley

Chitosan Nanoparticles as Antibacterials

Why is this topic significant?

Developments in nanotechnologies that have antibacterial properties are likely to find a ready market, because the agriculture and medical industries will likely seek to limit the use of antibiotics in an effort to reduce the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant organisms.

Description

Researchers at the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute investigated the potential use of chitosan nanoparticles to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections in livestock. The nanoparticles can kill Escherichia coli O157:H7 by obstructing the "gates" in the bacterial cell wall through which the bacterium receives nutrients and by disrupting the structure of the bacterial cell wall. The nanoparticles are also effective against various strains of Salmonella enterica in agricultural water. Toxicity tests revealed that, even in high concentrations, the nanoparticles are not toxic to animal and human cells. Working with the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine, the researchers revealed that treating metritis-infected cow uteruses with the chitosan nanoparticles kills penicillin-resistant Fusobacteriaceae and Bacteroidaceae, enabling the cow's microflora to develop a healthy composition.

Recently, the researchers received a $460,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture's National Institute for Food and Agriculture to continue to develop chitosan nanoparticles as next-generation antimicrobials (which includes antibacterials that are specific to bacteria). The researchers plan to investigate ways to increase the antibacterial properties of the nanoparticles by combining them with third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics and β-lactamase inhibitors.

Implications

The world is facing an increase in the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This phenomenon is already resulting in a resurgence of several life-threatening and potentially epidemic diseases, such as tuberculosis in some areas of the world where science had all but eliminated the disease. The ultimate scenario is from the world before penicillin (researchers discovered it in 1928), where treatable infections were far fewer than in the world today. Researchers have put forward several possible explanations for the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Overuse of antibiotics in the medical and agriculture industries is the most common explanation for the rise in antibiotic resistance. In the United States, agricultural players purchase 80% of all antibiotics to improve animal health. However, many commercially available antimicrobial treatments are becoming increasingly ineffective at killing some microbes, largely because of repeated use. At the end of 2015, concerns about the emergence of a new mutation that prevents colistin, the antibiotic of last resort, from killing bacteria led to calls for better management of the use of antibiotics, rapid diagnostics, and new antibiotics. Experts in the field gave dire warnings, forecasting unavoidable deaths if science does not tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance immediately. Chitosan nanoparticles may be viable alternative treatments for drug-resistant-pathogen-derived infections, because these nanoparticles have a broad spectrum of antibacterial activities, and their target pathogens do not develop antibacterial resistance after repeated use.

Impacts/Disruptions

In early 2017, the World Health Organization published a priority list of pathogens that require new treatments. The list aimed to help focus scientists in their efforts to research and develop novel antimicrobial treatments. Commercial interest in new treatments for antimicrobial resistance may develop quickly. Research in new antimicrobials will likely continue to receive large investments in the next ten years, enabling a new wave of antibacterials to become clinically available. The rise in academic research projects, along with the use of current antibacterials in animal feeds (which the agriculture industry should plan to decrease in the near term), will be a key driver of the market for novel antibacterials globally.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years to 10 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Antimicrobials, agriculture, animal feed, animal nutrition and welfare, health care, pharmaceuticals

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Nanoassays

Why is this topic significant?

Recent research reveals a nanotechnology-based molecular-diagnostic technology that may enable medical professionals to diagnose CFS and monitor therapeutic effectiveness. The new research is early-stage proof of principle of a promising nanoassay for CFS, but years are likely to pass before the nanoassay reaches the market.

Description

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine developed a low-cost nanotechnology-based diagnostic device that can identify people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The device is a nanoelectronic assay that sends multiple very small electrical currents into plasma samples and measures in real time the electrical signals sent out by the immune cells in the plasma as a response to the stress brought about by the assay signals. Spikes in the returned electrical signals indicate big changes at a cellular level, corresponding to inadequate processing of the stress by the immune cells. The researchers used supervised machine-learning algorithms to detect the spikes rapidly. In a pilot study with 40 individuals, the researchers diagnosed 20 people who suffer from moderate to severe CFS. The researchers plan to expand their pilot study to include more patients.

The researchers plan also to develop the device into a screening device for drugs that can treat CFS. Already, an undisclosed US Food-and-Drug-Administration- (FDA-) approved drug is showing promising results in restoring the healthy function of stressed immune cells. The researchers hope to start clinical trials of the device with the FDA-approved drug soon.

Implications

The novel development highlights the potential power of simple, rapid, and inexpensive nanotechnology-based devices for diagnostics. This range of qualities makes the device a particularly powerful instrument for the point-of-care detection of CFS—a disease that is difficult to diagnose with currently available tests. Self-contained and reusable devices that health-care professionals can use to diagnose diseases in the clinical setting quickly have the potential to lower health-care costs substantially while improving patient outcomes and clinician convenience. Ideally, testing for CFS markers in the blood could one day become as convenient as using a glucose meter.

Impacts/Disruptions

Technological developments (such as the novel nanoelectronic assay that enables more direct and sensitive detection capabilities) will continue to drive research and commercial interest. The growing influence of diagnostics on downstream decision making and spending related to treatment decisions will likely drive the value that the novel device can command in the global marketplace.

Setting time-to-market estimates for devices currently at early stages of development is difficult. Technology developers often have had a technical frame of reference, focusing on the time necessary to achieve proof-of-principle device operation. Many developers could not come up with a realistic time to market or set forth a list of realistic inhibitors. (Obvious inhibitors include the difficulty of moving from proof-of-principle device operation to a process that is highly manufacturable with a good yield.) The Stanford University researchers may have focus points similar to those of other technology developers and therefore may encounter the same inhibitors.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 10 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Medical diagnostics, health care, point-of-care diagnostics

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: