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Graphene shows promise in superbug fight

ZEN graphene kills 99.9% of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria Metal Tech News – March 17, 2021

Laboratory tests indicate that a small dose of a graphene compound developed by Zen Graphene Solutions Ltd. is highly effective in fighting antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, including multidrug-resistant variants like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Previous testing carried out by Dr. Tony Mazzulli, microbiologist-in-chief and infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and professor in two medicine and pathobiology departments at the University of Toronto, has shown a small dose of a graphene-based powder developed by ZEN is 99.9% effective against a broad range of bacteria responsible for strep and staph infections, as well as E. coli, flu, and pneumonia. The compound has also been shown to be 99.9% effective against certain yeast infections and viruses such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19.

The latest round of testing carried out by Dr. Mazzulli focused on 13 bacteria with antimicrobial-resistance, a rising health issue around the world.

"The World Health Organization lists AMR (antimicrobial-resistance) as a top-10 global public health threat facing humanity, largely due to the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials. With significant human impact and additional global healthcare expenditures expected to reach US$1.2 trillion annually by 2050 due to AMR, it is clear why the WHO, numerous AMR-focused organizations, and some of the world's largest and most innovative companies are allocating substantial resources to this cause," said Zen Graphene Solutions CEO Greg Fenton. "To address this global threat, we believe novel, broad-spectrum and antimicrobial agents are needed, and we are demonstrating that nanotechnology and our graphene-based compound can potentially play a key role."

The latest round of tests shows that ZEN's graphene compound is 99.9% effective against all four gram-positive and nine gram-negative aerobic antimicrobial-resistant bacteria tested so far, including both types of MRSA.

Gram-positive (e.g., Streptococci and Staphylococci) and gram-negative (e.g., E. coli, H. influenzae, M. catarrhalis) are broad bacteria classifications based on the type of cell wall.

As a single layer of carbon atoms, graphene slices through the protective cell walls of bacteria in both categories, destroying them without the use of drugs.

"The test results indicate that ZEN's GC (graphene compound) at very low concentrations is capable of inhibiting a variety of gram-positive and gram-negative antimicrobial-resistant aerobic bacteria," said Dr. Mazzulli. "These pathogens are associated with a number of difficult-to-treat clinical infections including those involving the respiratory tract, urinary tract, skin and soft tissues, and bacteremia."

ZEN says these results are even more significant considering the extremely low minimum inhibitory concentration needed and the safety profile of the compound of graphene, which is simply a single layer of carbon atoms.

Testing carried out by Nucro-Technics – a pharmaceutical contract research organization based in Canada – showed no adverse effects of the graphene compound after seven days of repeated doses thousands of times higher than the minimum inhibitory concentration needed for 99.9% effectiveness against viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

ZEN previously put forward the idea that graphene compound delivery mechanisms, like a dry powder inhaler or nasal spray, may prove as a highly effective delivery system for its graphene-based compound. In addition to avoiding the need to ingest or be injected with a dose, an inhaler or nasal spray would maximize concentrations of the 2D carbon material directly at the site of respiratory tract infections.

"A novel approach to the use of this GC for treatment of common respiratory tract infections, while minimizing any potential toxicity, is to use it topically. This could have multiple applications, including the following: as an intranasal spray or mixed with normal saline to create a solution for use as a sinus rinse for the treatment of sinusitis and other common upper respiratory tract infections; as a puffer or inhaler for the treatment of lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia; or, as an ophthalmic solution for the treatment of conjunctivitis or pre-op preparation for ophthalmic surgery," said Dr. Mazzulli.

These applications have the potential to play an enormous role in the treatment of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, which is estimated to be the cause of death of roughly 700,000 people each year.

The WHO has declared antimicrobial-resistant disease among the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. The health organization says the increased number of "superbugs" that are not treatable with existing antimicrobial medicines such as antibiotics is especially alarming.

"Without effective tools for the prevention and adequate treatment of drug-resistant infections and improved access to existing and new quality-assured antimicrobials, the number of people for whom treatment is failing or who die of infections will increase," according to the WHO.

The work being carried out by ZEN and Dr. Mazzulli is demonstrating that graphene could be an effective tool in battling this rising threat.

"ZEN is excited to be developing a graphene-based solution that has the potential to safely treat more common human-contracted pathogens, and also play a key role in the fight against this growing global health threat," said Fenton.

Graphite at ZEN's Albany project in Ontario is an excellent graphene precursor material and is the reason the company began focusing on medical and high-tech applications of graphene, including a partnership with Trebor Rx, to produce protective masks and gloves with a graphene-based antimicrobial coating.

More information on the collaboration between ZEN Graphene and Trebor Rx can be read at Graphene coated surgical gloves coming in the January 20, 2021 edition of Metal Tech News.

"Due to the importance of this development in addressing AMR, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants, we will continue discussions with various groups and look forward to partnering with new organizations to bring a potential game-changing therapeutic to market as quickly as possible," the ZEN Graphene CEO added.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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