The research could reduce the number of cases of food-borne diseases in the United States and one day treat the more than five million people in developing countries who die annually from diarrhea.
"Our ultimate goal is to use these nanoparticles as a treatment for children in underdeveloped countries," said Fred Stutzenberger, a retired professor of microbiology at Clemson who is publishing a review of the research next month in the journal Advances in Applied Microbiology.
The researchers made a microscopic ball of polystyrene, the same plastic used in CD cases. Threads hang off of the ball, and at the end of each one is a molecule that, to certain bacteria, looks like sugar. E. coli, salmonella, and other potentially deadly bacteria latch onto the molecule but can't process it, and essentially glue themselves to it.
Eventually dozens of nanoparticles attach themselves to the bacteria, making it very difficult for an infection to develop or spread.
"If we can block that first interaction [between bacteria and host]," said Jeremy Tzeng, a fellow researcher and microbiologist on the project, "then we can block an infection."
With the bacteria surrounded and unable to cause an infection, they pass harmlessly through the digestive system and out of the chicken.
Since the nanoparticles latch onto an area of the cell critical for triggering an infection, it would be hard for the bacteria to develop a resistance to the nanoparticles (the same process that leads to antibiotic-resistance bacteria) and still cause an infection.
The nanoparticles are several hundred nanometers in size, too big to migrate out of the digestive system and into the rest of the bird (or, potentially, human). Separate tests done by the scientists confirmed that no nanoparticles were found in any other tissues of the chicken's body.
The nanoparticles can also be applied to the chicken feed at anytime to remove potentially deadly bacteria. For example, feeding animals the nanoparticles just before slaughter could reduce the risk of contaminating the meat with e. coli or other bacteria if a worker or machine accidentally nicks open the stomach or intestine.
They have been tested in hundreds of chickens, rabbits and mice, none of which showed any reaction to the nanoparticles.
The researchers eventually want to develop the nanoparticles to directly treat human diseases, specifically diarrheal diseases in the developing world, and have been in touch with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in an effort to develop the technology.
"This is really an excellent opportunity to treat organisms without going through antibiotics," said Challa Kumar, a nanotechnology researcher at Louisiana State University who was not involved in the USDA-funded research.
"It has a tremendous commercial potential. I don't see any reason why it should fail if they try it in human beings."
I wonder if this same approach, suitably altered, would work as a viricide.
Looks like viruses are contemplated!
Stutzenberger; Fred J. ; et al. August 9, 2007
Adhesin-specific nanoparticles and process for using same
The present invention is generally directed to compositions useful in preventing and/or treating disease due to infection by any of a variety of biologically active pathogenic microorganisms. The compositions include nanoparticles formed of a hydrophobic polymeric core, hydrophilic linking agents bound to the core, and biofunctional materials bound to the linking agents. The biofunctional materials are functionally identical to receptors on host cell surfaces that can be recognized and bound by adhesins on the surface of the targeted pathogenic adhesin-bearing microorganisms. In one embodiment, the binding action between the nanoparticles and the microorganisms can lead to the formation of large agglomerated complexes, which can then be easily removed from an area, including the digestive tract of an infected individual. The compositions of the present invention can also be utilized in preventing enteric infections via the ability to purge animals of enteropathogens prior to transport and processing for human consumption.
Inventors: Stutzenberger; Fred J.; (Clemson, SC) ; Latour; Robert A. JR.; (Clemson, SC) ; Sun; Ya-Ping; (Clemson, SC) ; Tzeng; Tzuen R.; (US)
Assignee Name and Adress: Clemson University
Serial No.: 677132
Series Code: 10
Filed: October 1, 2003
1. A composition capable of binding to a biologically active microorganism comprising: a nanoparticle, said nanoparticle comprising a hydrophobic polymeric core, a hydrophilic linking agent bound to said polymeric core, and a biofunctional material bound to said linking agent, wherein said biofunctional material comprises a binding site for adhesins present on the surface of the biologically active microorganism.
 In one embodiment, the nanoparticles of the present invention can target commensal microorganisms such as yeast or other fungi. For example, the yeast Candida albicans is a human commensal. The ability of Candida to adhere to the host is a fungal virulence factor similar to that of other microbial systems, and is considered a significant step in the development of candidiasis. The present invention can also target viral pathogens. In particular, the biofunctional materials on the surface of the nanoparticles can include those which can be recognized and bound by the pathogenic capsid surfaces of a virus. For example, the nanoparticles can be biofunctionalized so as to target various rotaviruses, Norwalk-like viruses, adenoviruses, astroviruses, coronaviruses, enteroviruses, or other viral agents. For example, in one embodiment, nanoparticles can be biofunctionalized with the GP120 protein of HIV to provide a particulate immunizing preparation.
Clemson patent filing link