The battle rages on. IBM has partnered with scientists at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore to formulate a superbug fighting nanostructure that can battle MRSA in particular. The hope is that a name known for computer technology can find its niche in modern medicine.

MRSA is a growing strain of drug-resistant bacteria which kills an estimated 19,000 Americans every year.

According to The Mayo Clinic methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a strain of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections.

There are more than 30 species in the staph family of bacteria, and they can cause different kinds of illnesses. For example, one kind of staph can cause urinary tract infections. But most staph infections are caused by the species Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).

Most MRSA infections occur in people who have been in hospitals or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. When it occurs in these settings, it’s known as health care-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). HA-MRSA infections typically are associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints.

Another type of MRSA infection has occurred in the wider community, among healthy people. This form, community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA), often begins as a painful skin boil. It’s spread by skin-to-skin contact. At-risk populations include groups such as high school wrestlers, child care workers and people who live in crowded conditions.

The big breakthrough is 50,000 times smaller than the thickness of human hair. This happens to be a new class of antimicrobials that are designed to fight pathogens and infectious disease. The researchers working with these nano particles refer to them as “ninja particles” because their attack is fast, effective and precious.

The particles have an electromagnetic quality, searching out the cell walls of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Lab tests indicate the nano particles destroy MRSA without affecting healthy or red blood cells.

A nanostructure is a material structure assembled from a layer or cluster of atoms with size of the order of nanometers. Interest in the physics of condensed matter at size scales larger than that of atoms and smaller than that of bulk solids (mesoscopic physics) has grown rapidly since the 1970s, owing to the increasing realization that the properties of these mesoscopic atomic ensembles are different from those of conventional solids.

As a consequence, interest in artificially assembling materials from nanometer-sized building blocks arose from discoveries that by controlling the sizes in the range of 1 to 100 nm and the assembly of such constituents it was possible to begin to alter and prescribe the properties of the assembled nanostructures.

Nanostructured materials are modulated over nanometer length scales in zero to three dimensions. They can be assembled with modulation dimensionalities of zero (atom clusters or filaments), one (multilayers), two (ultrafine-grained overlayers or coatings or buried layers), and three (nanophase materials), or with intermediate dimensionalities.

IBM’s next goal is to take their science from the lab to human testing. And you thought they only made computers.

Sources: Nature Chemistry and The Mayo Clinic

Written by Sy Kraft