Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Australian research team develops material that can fight “superbug” infections in chronic wounds

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 20th, 2023

A team of researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) and RMIT University has developed a nano-thin material that could be used in wound dressings and implants to fight bacterial infections.

The material has shown effectiveness against a wide range of drug-resistant bacterial cells, commonly known as superbugs, which cause hundreds of thousands of deaths across the globe each year. In a recent study, the research team demonstrated that the material provided rapid antimicrobial action, killing over 99% of bacteria, before self-decomposing once the threat of infection had been eliminated.

“The beauty of our innovation is that it is not simply a coating—it can actually be integrated into common materials that devices are made of, as well as plastic and gels, to make them antimicrobial,” says Sumeet Walia, professor at RMIT and co-lead researcher of the project.

The material contains black phosphorus, a mineral that has proven effective against bacterial strains including E. coli and golden staph. When made into an ultra-thin form, black phosphorus degrades easily with oxygen, making it ideal for killing microbes.

“As the nanomaterial breaks down, its surface reacts with the atmosphere to produce what are called reactive oxygen species,” says Walia. “These species ultimately help by ripping bacterial cells apart.”

The research team aims to collaborate with potential industry partners to develop and prototype the technology for commercialization.

“Black phosphorus seems to have hit the spot,” says Zlatko Kopecki, researcher at UniSA and head of the project. “We look forward to seeing the translation of this research towards clinical treatment of chronic wounds.”

Source: University of South Australia

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