At the University of California at San Diego, bioengineers have created microscopic robots that entered the pneumonia-infected lungs of mice and cleared out the disease-causing bacteria.

The researchers encapsulated antibiotics in nano-scale, biodegradable polymer particles coated with the membranes of white blood cells. Then they attached the particles to algae.

Pneumonia causes the lungs to fill with fluid. As the algae swam around in the fluid, the white blood cell membranes neutralized inflammation caused by pneumonia bacteria.

The nanoparticles then degraded, releasing antibiotics that directly killed hostile bugs.

The algae and their cargo particles weren’t attacked by the lungs’ immune system and remained active for more than two days, allowing them to burrow into the lungs’ deep tissues and clear out a larger proportion of the infection.

In tests, all of the infected mice who were treated cleared their pneumonia within a week and survived longer than 30 days, while the infected mice in an untreated group died within three days.

The novel method cured the mice using a dose of antibiotics 300 times less than a standard IV antibiotic drip would have been needed—a crucial gain at a time when overuse of antibiotics has become an epidemic in itself. 

TRENDPOST: Antibiotic drips and injections diffuse the drugs throughout the body. As a result, often only a fraction of the medicine gets where it really needs to go.

Mobile nanorobots that target drugs more precisely are becoming an increasingly common means of treating not only infections, but cancer and other forms of invasion.

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