August 26 2017 by Brantley Henson

The growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria has become a mainstream health concern, and for good reason. Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have identified antimicrobial resistance as a worldwide threat that “has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country.”1,2

Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928 dozens more antibiotics have been developed, saving millions of lives. However, antibiotic overuse and misuse has led to a perilous dilemma. When antibiotics are used erroneously to treat viral infections or patients with bacterial infections stop use before completing a full regimen, bacteria are given a chance to develop immunity. Over time the collective misuse and over-reliance on these drugs as a panacea to treat infection has led to the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria strains. As bacterial resistance increases so has the challenge of finding new drugs to replace antibiotics rendered ineffective. Lucky, a relatively new technique called nanobiotics may offer a promising strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance.

Research dating to 2005 shows an enhanced antibiotic effect of ampicillin when combined with silver nanoparticles.3,4 Both, ampicillin and silver nanoparticles are individually capable of disrupting bacterial cell membranes and cellular function, leading to cell death. When used together they drastically increase in the cell death of resistant strains of E.coli.

More recently, a new iteration of this technology was developed that uses silver-silica-antibiotic nanoparticles.5 Using molecular dynamic simulation, researchers determined the optimal orientation for an ampicillin molecule to interact with bacterial surfaces. They then used a silica shell around silver nanospheres to control the directional orientation of ampicillin on the surface of the nanohybrid particle. The resulting nanobiotic produced a potent antimicrobial effect. In testing, it effectively killed ampicillin resistant E. Coli while remaining  non-cytotoxic towards human cells. In future studies, the silver-silica nanoparticle structure can be extended to use with other antibiotics and therefore provides a promising new strategy in the fight against antimicrobial drug resistance.

Find out more about antibiotic resistance and what you can do to help here:

 Will nanoparticles save us from antibiotic resistant bacteria?


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  1. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) > Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance > Report: Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. Link to Full CDC Report

  2. Wolrd Health Organization (WHO), Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance. 2014. ISBN 978 92 4 1564748. Link to Full WHO Report

  3. Li, Ping, et al. "Synergistic antibacterial effects of β-lactam antibiotic combined with silver nanoparticles." Nanotechnology 16.9 (2005): 1912. DOI:

  4. Fayaz, Amanulla Mohammed, et al. "Biogenic synthesis of silver nanoparticles and their synergistic effect with antibiotics: a study against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria." Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine 6.1 (2010): 103-109. DOI:

  5. de Oliveira, Jessica Fernanda Affonso, et al. "Defeating Bacterial Resistance and Preventing Mammalian Cells Toxicity Through Rational Design of Antibiotic-Functionalized Nanoparticles." Scientific Reports 7.1 (2017): 1326. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-01209-1