At the young age of 25, Shu Lam has made one of the most important medical discoveries of our time. Shu is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne and she has developed a way to destroy superbugs without using antibiotics. Why is this such a big deal? Time for a quick history lesson…
Back in 1928, bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the first true antibiotic. He was observing his culture plates of disease-causing bacteria when he noticed spores of green mold. Incredibly, this mold was killing and preventing the growth of the bacteria. It was a major breakthrough that revolutionized medicine, helping the world to treat disease worldwide.
Unfortunately, antibiotics were so effective and so accessible that they were overused, particularly with livestock. This led bacteria to develop a resistance against antibiotics. It became a sort of cat-and-mouse game with scientists coming up with new antibiotics and bacteria mutating to become resistant against its latest threat. And thus, “superbugs” were born… bacteria that are resistant to almost anything we can throw at it. That is, until now.
Instead of using an antibiotic, Shu developed a large molecule known as a polymer. Instead of attacking superbugs chemically, like an antibiotic, the polymer attacks them physically. Shu’s star-shaped polymer tear into the surface of the bacteria’s membrane, causing it to kill itself. It does all of this while leaving the healthy cells undisturbed.
Shu’s research is still in the very early stages and a lot of work still needs to be done before human testing can begin. Regardless, this is incredible news that can save millions of lives!