Once they come into contact with water, the antimicrobial agents self-assemble into a new polymer structure that is designed to target bacteria membranes by electrostatically interacting with them, breaking through their cell membranes and walls in the process.
The physical nature of the action prevents the bacteria from developing resistance to the materials.
Unlike most antimicrobial materials, they are biodegradable, which enhances their potential application because they are naturally eliminated from the body rather than remaining behind and accumulating in an organ.
If commercially manufactured, the biodegradable polymers could be injected directly into the body or applied topically to the skin, treating skin infections through consumer products such as deodorant, soap, table wipes and preservatives.
‘Using our novel nanostructures, we can offer a viable therapeutic solution for the treatment of MRSA and other infectious diseases,’ said Dr Yiyan Yang, group leader at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.