The Golden Piece: How Gold Is Being Used For Antibiotics

The Golden Piece: How Gold Is Being Used For Antibiotics

In this ever-changing world where evolution is key to human success but it is also part of our downfall. As a matter of fact, human bodies which can host bacteria and fungi have learned to resist drugs such as antibiotics. However, the latest scientific discoveries may prove that gold can be a solution to antibiotic resistance. 

What Exactly Is Antibiotic Resistance? 

Antibiotics are medications that are used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance is when a pathogen resists the drugs and medications used to kill it. Bacteria is what causes several dangerous infections such as pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Antibiotic resistance has become a global issue for one big reason only. When developing an illness or infection antibiotics have become the traditional way of treating it, without antibiotics many people would die. 

Why Does It Happen?

This is a result of natural evolution. When microorganisms are exposed to an antibiotic, the weaker microorganisms are killed. This leaves behind the more resistant ones, which can pass on their higher resistance to their offspring. 

Additionally, listed below are deadly infections that are becoming more deadly due to the decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics:

  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Blood poisoning
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Salmonellosis
  • Foodborne diseases
A creative art piece of how antibiotics fight pathogens. Made By: Zoë van Dijk for Quanta Magazine

Why is Knowing about Antibiotic Resistance Important?

Antibiotic resistance has become an increasing problem in the world, as poverty-driven conditions and locations cause higher rates of illnesses and infections with higher antibiotic resistance. As of May 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared antibiotic resistance an international emergency. As a result to this WHO also set five goals about the antibiotic resistance emergency, these goals are raising awareness,  increasing monitoring and research, reducing infections, making the best use of antimicrobial medications, and committing to sustainable investment.

The History of Gold in Medical Research

Gold nanoparticles have been studied to manage antibiotic resistance by facilitating chemical reactions that release oxygen species capable of damaging DNA. Gold nanoparticles also interfere with cell membranes, making it more permeable to various toxic substances, including antibiotics. Gold nanoparticles can also absorb light from a laser, allowing heating of its surroundings. Though releasing chemical reactions and heating can deal with the issue of antibiotic resistance, it also puts normal cells at risk—which leaves us with continued questions regarding combating antibiotic resistance. However, this research has already served as a stepping stone for further research on gold to discover a solution to the increasingly imminent issue of antibiotic resistance.

Image By: Lab Manager

Why Is Gold the Next Best Option?

Researchers from the Southern University of Science and Technology and Fudan University in China, and the University of Leeds in the UK, began to study gold nanoclusters to make it more appealing to bacteria and less damaging to human bodies.

What Modifications Did The Teams Make?

Engineers and researchers manipulated the behavior of gold nanoparticles in different ways. One is size control, which keeps the particles under two nanometers helps the particles slip through kidneys better, making for a quicker exit from human bodies. The researchers focused on limiting the size of the clusters to 25 atoms.

The second is to have ‘sticky’ chemical structures called ligands. This allows gold to be tracked and helps control the particle’s shape. Bacterial cells are strongly negatively charged than the cells of mammals. Using the idea that opposite charges attract, the gold nanoclusters were wrapped in pyridinium and zwitterion.

The molecules are part of the zwitterionic groups, which are also found in the lipids of cell membranes in mammals. This makes the gold nanoclusters more compatible with host mammalian cells, rather than harming these cells.  Pyridinium helps make the gold more attractive to bacteria,  zwitterion showed improved stability and increased compatibility with tissues.

Results From This Study

The gold nanoparticles were tested on Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Epidermidis, and it had an impact on the bacteria, proving that gold could be used in antibiotics. They tested three antibiotics – each representing a different class of antibiotics – against MRSE with and without the gold nanoclusters. In one case, the dose required to inhibit the MRSE’s growth decreased more than 100.

Staphylococcus surrounds a dead white blood cell. Image By: Callista Images/Getty Images

Things To Keep In Mind About Antibiotic Resistance:

  • Antibiotic resistance is a global issue: It can happen to anyone, from anywhere, and any age. 
  • World Antibiotic Awareness Week is every November 18-24 and is about antibiotic resistance and how the medical community is educating us about the proper use of these disease-fighting drugs.
  • Taking in the wrong dosage can increase the possibility of resistance by not effectively treating the infection. 
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
  • Poor-quality medicines can contribute to resistance ​quality control for medications tends to be weak.
<a href="https://thecaduceustimes.com/2021/10/victoria-sosa/">Victoria Sosa</a>
Victoria Sosa

Victoria Sosa is a dedicated writer and editor of ​​The Caduceus Times, as well as a student at MAST@ Homestead. She is focused on touching the topics of entertainment and featured articles, allowing her readers to go through a journey through her writing. Her love for writing came from reading at a young age, as well the curiosity of the world around her. When not working, you can find her writing short fiction stories, listening to crime podcasts, or exploring new hobbies.