Research

Magnetized Viruses Attack Harmful Bacteria

Rice, China team uses phage-enhanced nanoparticles to kill bacteria that foul water treatment systems


0807_PHAGE-1-WEB
By Mike Williams | August 03, 2017

Magnetic nanoparticle clusters have the power to punch through biofilms to reach bacteria that can foul water treatment systems, according to scientists at Rice University and the University of Science and Technology of China.

The nanoclusters developed through Rice’s Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Engineering Research Center carry bacteriophages – viruses that infect and propagate in bacteria – and deliver them to targets that generally resist chemical disinfection.

Without the pull of a magnetic host, these “phages” disperse in solution, largely fail to penetrate biofilms and allow bacteria to grow in solution and even corrode metal, a costly problem for water distribution systems.

The Rice lab of environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez and colleagues in China developed and tested clusters that immobilize the phages. A weak magnetic field draws them into biofilms to their targets.

The research is detailed in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Environmental Science: Nano.

“This novel approach, which arises from the convergence of nanotechnology and virology, has a great potential to treat difficult-to-eradicate biofilms in an effective manner that does not generate harmful disinfection byproducts,” Alvarez said.

Biofilms can be beneficial in some wastewater treatment or industrial fermentation reactors owing to their enhanced reaction rates and resistance to exogenous stresses, said Rice graduate student and co-lead author Pingfeng Yu. “However, biofilms can be very harmful in water distribution and storage systems since they can shelter pathogenic microorganisms that pose significant public health concerns and may also contribute to corrosion and associated economic losses,” he said.

The lab used phages that are polyvalent – able to attack more than one type of bacteria – to target lab-grown films that contained strains of Escherichia coli associated with infectious diseases and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is prone to antibiotic resistance.

The phages were combined with nanoclusters of carbon, sulfur and iron oxide that were further modified with amino groups. The amino coating prompted the phages to bond with the clusters head-first, which left their infectious tails exposed and able to infect bacteria.

The researchers used a relatively weak magnetic field to pull the nanoclusters into the film and disrupt it. Images showed they effectively killed E. coli and P. aeruginosa over around 90 percent of the film in a test 96-well plate versus less than 40 percent in a plate with phages alone.

The researchers noted bacteria may still develop resistance to phages, but the ability to quickly disrupt biofilms would make that more difficult. Alvarez said the lab is working on phage “cocktails” that would combine multiple types of phages and/or antibiotics with the particles to inhibit resistance.

Graduate student Ling-Li Li of the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, is co-lead author of the paper. Co-authors are graduate student Sheng-Song Yu and Han-Qing Yu, a professor at the University of Science and Technology of China, and graduate student Xifan Wang and temporary research scientist Jacques Mathieu of Rice.

The National Science Foundation and its Rice-based NEWT Engineering Research Center supported the research.

Tags | Research



Social Posts

profile_image

Baylor College of Medicine

BaylorCollegeOfMedicine

Dr. Jeanine Graf discusses how the expansion of Texas Children’s Hospital-Katy campus will enhance pediatric health services.

19 mins ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

The @aao_ophth and @AAS_Office offer these five tips for viewing the eclipse: https://t.co/MkZ3nYR23n #texaschildrens

29 mins ago
profile_image

Texas A&M University Health Science Center

TAMUhealthsciences

“Sit-stand desks have been shown to increase physical activity in the workplace, yet most studies show a reduction in utilization over time."

30 mins ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

Did you know some VA benefits have deadlines? Learn how to look up VA benefits you may be eligible to receive during our Facebook Live event August 22 at 2 p.m....

35 mins ago
profile_image

Texas Children's Hospital

TexasChildrensHospital

Are you planning to watch on Monday? Follow these five tips to safely view the eclipse:

36 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson

@MDAndersonNews

?It was a gift because it was all the things she had to sacrifice.? https://t.co/GrZPfUTf1X @TODAYshow @jennabushhager #endcancer

44 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

New GI Bill signed, expanding college assistance for Veterans https://t.co/Kz9r9VHNZO via @washingtonpost

1 hour ago
profile_image

UTHealth

MyUTHealth

Watch LIVE below as Dr. Pamela Berens, an OB/GYN and lactation expert with McGovern Medical School and Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, discusses breastfee...

1 hour ago
profile_image

MD Anderson

@MDAndersonNews

.@CPRITTexas awards MD Anderson $7.5 million for #cancer research and facility support: https://t.co/D7hrqnI6dN #endcancer

1 hour ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHouston_News: .@CPRITTexas grant helps bring outstanding #cancer researcher to @bcmhouston. Read more @ChronMed @HoustonChron https:?

1 hour ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

This guy is too cool for school. Read more about this #tbt on our blog: https://t.co/zk41O8sB1Q https://t.co/Mioeh96sbg

1 hour ago
profile_image

Baylor College of Medicine

BaylorCollegeOfMedicine

This guy is too cool for school. Read more about this #tbt on our blog: http://bit.ly/2ia89nJ

1 hour ago
profile_image

UniversityofHouston

@UHouston

@SergioT_02 Welcome to Texas... in August! We get it. We'll have water available @ stations across campus next week? https://t.co/KrW4jEKWWU

2 hours ago
profile_image

TAMU Health Sciences

@TAMHSC

#TAMHSC researchers are examining ways to enhance and sustain the use of the sit-stand desk. https://t.co/4gkXBdmYB4 #Ergonomics

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Did you see our 2021 class photo? ? #RiceOWeek17 https://t.co/Gg8mwR7Wup

2 hours ago