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Phosphorus-based nanotech rips apart superbugs & accelerates healing

Date: 15.9.2023 

Researchers have found that using nano-sized flakes of black phosphorus on wounds infected with drug-resistant superbugs not only kills the pathogens, but also promotes wound healing. More than a coating, the innovative antimicrobial can be incorporated into common materials such as dressings, gels, and plastics.

Kredit: Aaron Elbourne & colleagues/RMIT University.Black phosphorus has recently been identified as an effective antimicrobial agent. It’s the most stable physical form of phosphorus and consists of 2D layers of phosphorus (called ‘phosphorene’), the same way that graphite comprises many graphene layers. In their previous work, the researchers demonstrated how black phosphorus arranged in nano-thin layers killed microbes by its unique ability to produce reactive oxygen species.

“As the nanomaterial breaks down, its surface reacts with the atmosphere to produce what are called reactive oxygen species,” said Sumeet Walia, a co-author of the study. “These species ultimately help by ripping bacterial cells apart.”

In the current study, the researchers tested the safety and efficacy of using black phosphorus nanoflakes (BPNFs) on common bacteria, including drug-resistant S. aureus (‘golden staph’), P. aeruginosa, and E. coli.

S. aureus treated with BPNFs showed a 62% loss of cell viability within two hours. After 24 hours, over 99% of bacteria were killed. A similar trend was seen with P. aeruginosa, with BPNFs causing over 80% bacterial death after 24 hours. Not only did the BPNFs destroy the bacteria without damaging other cells, but they also self-decomposed after the infection threat had been eliminated.

BPNFs also demonstrated enhanced wound healing and tissue regeneration, compared to controls. Daily treatment with BPNFs over seven days produced an 80% wound closure, with no evidence of redness or skin breakdown.

Image source: Aaron Elbourne & colleagues/RMIT University.




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