Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Recycled Plastic Proves Effective in Killing Drug-Resistant Fungi

Published: Thursday, December 19, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, December 19, 2013
Bookmark and Share
IBN and IBM discover new medical application for converted PET bottles.

Researchers at Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) and California's IBM Research - Almaden (IBM) have discovered a new, potentially life-saving application for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widely used to make plastic bottles. They have successfully converted PET into a non-toxic biocompatible material with superior fungal killing properties.

As reported in Nature Communications, their new material proved particularly effective in destroying drug-resistant fungi and fungal biofilm, displaying great potential as an antifungal agent to prevent and treat topical fungus-induced diseases such as skin infections and keratitis.

IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y. Ying shared that, "A key focus of IBN's nanomedicine research efforts is the development of novel polymers and materials for more effective treatment and prevention of various diseases. Our latest breakthrough with IBM allows us to specifically target and eradicate drug-resistant and drug-sensitive fungi strains and fungal biofilms, without harming surrounding healthy cells. We hope to eventually apply this technology clinically to help the large number of patients worldwide who suffer from fungal infections."

In recent years, the number of opportunistic fungal infections has increased due to growing populations of patients with weakened immune systems, for example due to cancer, organ transplant or HIV/AIDS.

In such patients, invasive infections caused by Candida, Aspergillus and Cryptococcus neoformans (C. neoformans) fungi strains may take the form of potentially lethal blood stream infections, lung infections and meningitis. Candida, for example, causes candidiasis, which is the fourth most common fungal blood stream infection among hospitalized patients in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

BCC Research reported that the treatment cost for fungal infections was USD 3 billion worldwide in 2010 and this is expected to increase to USD 6 billion in 2014. Of great concern to the clinical and healthcare communities is the rise in fungal infections, which are resistant to conventional antifungal drugs, as well as increasing reports of resistance development in patients toward antifungal agents.

These trends necessitate the urgent development of suitable alternatives to the limited selection of available antifungal agents. Further, most conventional antifungal agents do not completely destroy the fungi but merely inhibit their growth, which may lead to future infections.

A particular challenge facing researchers lies in fungi's metabolic similarity to mammalian cells. Existing antifungal agents are unable to distinguish between infected and healthy cells, and frequently end up attacking the latter. Hence, patients commonly report hemolysis and nephrotoxicity as treatment side effects.

Leveraging IBM's polymer synthesis and computational expertise, as well as IBN's nanomedicine and biomaterials research expertise, the researchers transformed PET, a common plastic material, into novel small molecule compounds that self-assemble in water into nanofibers. Via electrostatic interaction, the nanofibers are able to selectively target fungal cells and penetrate their membrane, killing them in the process.

According to Dr Yi Yan Yang, Group Leader, IBN, "The ability of our molecules to self-assemble into nanofibers is important because unlike discrete molecules, fibers increase the local concentration of cationic charges and compound mass. This facilitates the targeting of the fungal membrane and its subsequent lysis, enabling the fungi to be destroyed at low concentrations. The result is a highly efficient killing strategy that causes minimal damage or toxicity to surrounding healthy cells."

In vitro studies conducted at IBN demonstrated that the nanofibers eradicated over 99.9% of C. albicans after just one hour of incubation and did not develop any drug resistance, even after 11 treatments. C. albicans causes the third most common fungal blood stream infection in the United States.

The nanofibers were also used to effectively treat contact lens-associated fungal biofilm eye infection in mice without causing any toxicity to the eye.

In comparison, the conventional antifungal drug, Fluconazole, was only able to inhibit additional fungal growth, and the infection exhibited drug resistance after six treatments. Further, Fluconazole was not effective against biofilms.

According to Dr James Hedrick, Advanced Organic Materials Scientist, IBM Research - Almaden, "As computational predictive methodologies continue to advance, we can begin to establish ground rules for self-assembly to design complex therapeutics to fight infections, as well as the effective encapsulation, transport and delivery of a wide variety of cargos to their targeted disease sites."

The IBN and IBM scientists have made other recent breakthroughs in antimicrobial research. By combining their antimicrobial polymers with conventional antibiotics or antifungal drugs, they were able to induce the formation of pores in microbial membranes, which promotes the penetration of antibiotics into the microbial cells, and kills highly infectious, drug-resistant P. aeruginosa at significantly lower concentrations when compared to the antimicrobial polymers and antibiotics alone. In addition, the researchers have also fine-tuned their biodegradable antimicrobial polycarbonates to produce polymers with strong and broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity and negligible toxicity to mammals.

IBN and IBM's research collaboration has resulted in more than 20 platform technologies on drug, protein and gene delivery, as well as macromolecular antimicrobial agents to treat MRSA infections, other infectious diseases and cancers.

The research team is now actively seeking pharmaceutical companies to further develop their newest breakthrough for future clinical applications.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

A*STAR Findings on Breast Cancer Hold Potential for New Treatments
Computational techniques to increase understanding of diseases and improve patient treatments.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Rapid Test Kit Detects Dengue Antibodies from Saliva
IBN’s MedTech innovation simplifies diagnosis of infectious diseases.
Friday, January 30, 2015
A*STAR Scientists Discover Gene Critical for Proper Brain Development
This gene accounts for the size of the human brain and potentially our superior cognitive abilities.
Friday, December 26, 2014
A Gold Catalyst for Clear Water
Mixed nanoparticle systems may help purify water and generate hydrogen.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Anti-Diabetic Drug Springs New Hope for Tuberculosis Patients
Drug for treating diabetes can double up as adjunct treatment for tuberculosis.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Gene Associated with an Aggressive Breast Cancer Identified
Over-expressed gene in triple negative breast cancer offers new diagnostics for risk assessment.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Diagnostics Development Hub To Complement Biomed Research Launched
Hub will leverage strategic public-public and public-private partnerships to accelerate market readiness of locally developed diagnostic products.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Protecting the Body from Itself
Scientists advance understanding of autoimmunity with discovery of link between major immune cell types.
Friday, September 26, 2014
Colorful Nanoprobes Make A Simple Test
Gold nanoparticles linked to single-stranded DNA create a simple but versatile genetic testing kit.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Lab on a Breathing Chip
Human nasal epithelial cells, cultured on a microchip, react to air pollutants just like they would in the upper airway.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Understanding and Improving the Body's Fight Against Pathogens
A*STAR scientists find new targets for modulating antibody response.
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Novel Gene Predicts Both Breast Cancer Relapse and Response to Chemotherapy
A predictive marker discovered by scientists at A*STAR and NUS could help doctors classify breast cancer patients for more effective treatment.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
High Capacity Antibody Purification
Researchers from the A*Star Bioprocessing Technology Institute have used magnetic nanoparticles to break the capacity barrier for antibody purification.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
New Tool to Study Critical Protein Interaction in Cancer Research
A*STAR scientists used fluorescent molecular rotors to study protein-protein interactions involving p53 and MDM2 in cells.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Missing Protein Explains Link Between Obesity and Diabetes
A*STAR scientists pioneered a molecular connection between the two health conditions.
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
World’s First Therapeutic Venom Database
Open-source library describes nearly 43,000 effects on the human body.
Biologists Induce Flatworms to Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species
Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects and regeneration.
Fat Cells Originating from Bone Marrow Found in Humans
Cells could contribute to diabetes, heart disease.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos