how the sound bacteria? This question seems almost as difficult to answer as “what do clouds smell like”. However, after the publication of a new study in Nature’s nanotechnology, it is much easier to give you an answer. And it is that a team of scientists from Technical University of Delft managed to record the sound of a bacteria when placed on a drum of graphene.
Beyond the curious results, it is a very useful study, because it can be used to detect antibiotic resistance in a simple way and above all, quick. When a person’s life is at stake due to a serious infection, it is vital to determine the best treatment as soon as possible. If you decide to use an antibiotic to which the bacteria in question is resistant, you are wasting valuable time.
This is why this study is so useful, because detecting resistance would be as simple as checking if the bacteria noise it stops when they come into contact with the antibiotic in question. If it stops, it is sensitive and can be a good treatment. If you continue your song It’s time to keep trying and cross your fingers that there are still options that can end the infection.
Serendipity studies graphene
In fact, the authors of the just-published study didn’t begin their research with that in mind. They were just studying properties of graphenea material that has had very bad press during the pandemic, but which has an immense range of possibilities.
It is made up of carbon atoms, arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern. He is very resistant. In fact, a sheet just one atom thick is 200 times stronger than steel. But it is also lighter, precisely about 5 times lighter than aluminum. In addition, it conducts heat and electricity very well and can be dope, adding impurities from other substances that give it new properties. All this already makes it a great material, But there is even more. For example, it has been proven to be able to self-repair.
Logically, thanks to these properties, graphene is a highly valued material in areas such as electronics, space engineering or biomedicine. Although no, vaccines don’t contain graphene and neither do masks, let’s be clear.
These scientists were particularly interested in their medical applications. Therefore, they wondered what would happen if he interacted with a single biological object, like bacteria. It is known to be extremely sensitive to external forces, so the movement of the bacterial flagella could cause vibrations detectable with appropriate sensors.
They decided to check and found that indeed a noticeable vibration was occurring, albeit a very weak one. The graphene would act like a kind of drum on which the bacteria beat, but the result is about 10 billion times smaller than a boxer’s punch on a bag. Even so, these rhythms at the nanoscale (an extremely small scale) could be measured and turned into soundtracks. Therefore, they could check the sound of bacteria.
Measuring the sound of bacteria to fight antibiotic resistance
It is estimated that in 2019 there were worldwide nearly 5 million deaths associated with antibiotic resistance.
This is therefore another great pandemic that deserves the attention of scientists and citizens. It is necessary that try to stop it and look for alternatives, because antibiotics are our only weapon against bacteria. If these are able to escape them, we are lost.
Today, it is quite common for the bacteria responsible for an infection to be resistant to at least one antibiotic. Especially if it comes to frequently used antibiotics. For this reason, before carrying out a treatment, or if it has already been carried out without success, it is common to carry out what is called antibiogram.
This involves taking a sample of the bacteria causing the infection and culturing it in the laboratory. Bacteria are then taken from this culture and brought into contact with the various antibiotics whose effectiveness is to be tested. If they are resistant, they will be able to proliferate without problem. If they are sensitive, when they are placed on a plate with the antibiotic in question, a sort of baldness will open there, as the microbes succumb. Either way, this is a long process, usually taking at least 24-48 hoursso that bacteria can grow. There are faster ways, but they still take too long if you’re in a rush.
Thus, the authors of this new study believed that their drums graphene could be the solution. And it is that by putting in contact with antibiotics a graphene membrane adhering to a single bacterium, if the microorganism is sensitive to the drug, the sound gradually ceases in just two hours and then disappears completely. On the other hand, if he resists, he continues to ring.
Therefore, the next step for these researchers will be to validate their graphene drums with different pathogen samples and different antibiotics. If they manage to perfect the technique, we would be faced with a new weapon to add to the arsenal of the fight against antibiotic resistance. It’s a tough war, so any help is welcome.