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Researchers win grant to fight superbugs

7 June 2017
Grant awarded to help fight drug-resistant bacteria

University of Sydney researchers have been awarded over $500,000 to research more effective ways of combating superbugs.

Professor Hak-Kim Chan and Dr Wojciech Chrzanowski from the Faculty of Pharmacy have been granted $511,923 by the Australian Research Council to use nano-technology to more effectively treat respiratory infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria.

The researchers will use liposomes – tiny sacs that can be designed to carry and deliver drugs to the body’s cells – to develop antibiotics that can better treat drug-resistant bacterial infections than current forms of antibiotics.

Current methods for treating respiratory infections use tablets or injectables to deliver the drugs which can sometimes fail to distribute the antibiotics to where they are needed. The researchers intend to develop a powder that can be inhaled rather than ingested or injected.

“Respiratory infection caused by superbugs is a major health problem worldwide. This project will explore new nano-medicine technology using nanocrystals in liposomes to design new particles that can deliver antibiotics through inhalation,” says Professor Chan.

The researchers will first establish an understanding of how nanoscale size drugs that are delivered in liposomes will effect bacteria and cells.

Co-researcher Dr Wojciech Chrzanwoski says the nano-level drugs will be more efficient and effective in treating infections.

“The drugs will be formulated to target the lungs and therefore the site of the infection. The structure and composition of the drugs will enable a controlled release of the drug at the target size and due to their tiny size the potency of the antibiotics will be increased,” says Dr Chrzanowski.

“Outcomes of this research will allow us to establish new formulations in order to combat multidrug resistance. This new technology can provide a way for us to successfully treat infections that are currently difficult to address,” says Professor Chan.

The research will be supported by the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at the University of Sydney. Professor Chan and Dr Chrzanowski will work alongside researchers at drug designer Aradigm Inc based in the United States.

Elliott Richardson

Assistant Media Advisor (Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy)