Killing Superbugs with A Tiny Tool: MNBT?


HOUSTON, Texas. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Each year, nearly three million people suffer from antibiotic-resistant infections. Bacteria is smart, and these bugs quickly develop immunity against the most powerful antibiotics. Now, researchers are using tiny, nano drills to penetrate the hard exteriors of bacteria molecules; enabling the precise delivery of antibiotics, aimed at saving lives and killing superbugs.

Superbugs are smart and immune to most medications.

Karl Klose, Ph.D., a microbiologist, told Ivanhoe, “So, the bugs aren’t really any different than they’ve ever been, but we’ve lost the ability to treat the infection.”

Because we’ve used too many antibiotics too often.

“When you flood the human population with antibiotics, what you’re going to end up with is bacteria that are resistant to those same antibiotics,” explained Klose.

Scientists at Rice University are utilizing nano drills.

“Now, we pop holes with the nanomachines and then, the drugs get in through that, and kill the bacteria,” detailed Jim Tour, Ph.D., a synthetic organic chemist at Rice University.

(Read Full Interview)

The microscopic molecules are activated by light.

“They’re designed such that when we shine a light on them, they will rotate unidirectionally, at three million rotations per second,” continued Tour.

That rapid rotation basically blows up the bacteria cell. It’s called, ‘blebbing.’

Tour told Ivanhoe, “It’s very selective and they die by exploding. You just punch holes in them and the cells bleb—boom!”

Once the cells are open for meds, doctors will even be able to use older antibiotics.

Tour said, “What it does is allows us to use antibiotics that have already been outdated. That the bacteria thought they already built a defense to.”

Companies are now putting money behind this research, meaning a faster track for FDA approval. Jim Tour believes that if all goes as planned, this process of nano drilling to kill bacteria will be available in about five years.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Donna Parker, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalo, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4727                                                                        

BACKGROUND: According to the CDC, about 2 million people get sick from a superbug every year, and about 23,000 of those people die. It’s a term described as bacteria that cannot be killed using multiple antibiotics. “It resonates because it’s scary,” says Stephen Calderwood, M.D., president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “But in fairness, there is no real definition.” Doctors, instead, use phrases like “multidrug-resistant bacteria” because a superbug isn’t necessarily resistant to all antibiotics. Any species of bacteria can turn into a superbug. The CDC says that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them or not finishing all of the medicine is the single leading factor contributing to this problem. The concern is that eventually doctors will run out of antibiotics to treat them.


UNDERSTANDING SUPERBUGS:  Having good hygiene habits can help protect you from the risk of superbugs. Keeping your environment clean, and washing your hands frequently is important. According to the CDC, two common culprits, Salmonella and Campylobacter, cause some 400,000 antibiotic-resistant infections in Americans every year. You can reduce your risk of these by washing fresh fruits and vegetables, and thoroughly cooking meat, poultry, and fish. If you need to be admitted to the hospital, be sure hospital staff members are following good hygiene practices, especially when they come in your room to treat you. And remember, antibiotics can’t treat viruses, only bacterial infections. They won’t help you get over the common cold or a bout of the flu any faster. Taking an antibiotic may be necessary, but it’s always wise to explore other options with your doctor.


ADVANCEMENTS IN PHAGE RESEARCH: Bacteriophages, or phages, attach to bacterial cells and inject genetic instructions, turning their prey into virus-producing factories. In most cases, replicating phages eventually burst the bacterium, destroying it, and proceed to invade other bacterial cells. Robert Schooley, M.D., and Steffanie Strathdee, Ph.D., infectious disease expert at UC San Diego Health, connected with scientists at Texas A&M and the Naval Medical Research Center to engage in phage research. There, researchers identified eight phage variants that were likely to be active against Acinetobacter baumannii, one of the most antibiotic-resistant superbugs known to science. “We’re convinced that phage therapy will be an important weapon in our armamentarium against multi-resistant infections,” explained Dr. Schooley. More clinical trials are being set up to continue research.



Mike Williams, Senior Media Relations Specialist

Rice University


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for James Tour, PhD, T.T and W.F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Computer Science, Materials Science and Nano Engineering

Read the entire Q&A