Dr Aaron Elbourne said antibiotics had revolutionised health since they were discovered 90 years ago but were losing effectiveness due to misuse.
“We’re heading to a post-antibiotic future, where common bacterial infections, minor injuries and routine surgeries could once again become deadly,” Elbourne, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Nanobiotechnology Laboratory at RMIT, said.
“It’s not enough to reduce antibiotic use, we need to completely rethink how we fight bacterial infections.
“Bacteria are incredibly adaptable and over time they develop defences to the chemicals used in antibiotics, but they have no way of dealing with a physical attack.
“Our method uses precision-engineered liquid metals to physically rip bacteria to shreds and smash through the biofilm where bacteria live and multiply.
“With further development, we hope this technology could be the way to help make antibiotic resistance history.”
Let’s get physical: New way to kill bacteria
The RMIT team behind the technology is the only group in the world investigating the antibacterial potential of magnetic liquid metal nanoparticles.
When exposed to a low-intensity magnetic field, these nano-sized droplets change shape and develop sharp edges
When the droplets are placed in contact with a bacterial biofilm, their movements and nano-sharp edges break down the biofilm and physically rupture the bacterial cells.
In the new study, the team tested the effectiveness of the technology against two types of bacterial biofilms (Gram-positive and Gram-negative).
After 90 minutes of exposure to the liquid metal nanoparticles, both biofilms were destroyed and 99% of the bacteria were dead. Importantly, laboratory tests showed the bacteria-destroying droplets did not affect human cells.