Inorganic nanohybrids combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria hiding within human macrophages†
Bacterial infections are one of the main health concerns humanity faces today and bacterial resistances and protection mechanisms are set to aggravate the issue in the coming years. An increasing number of bacterial strains evades antibiotic treatment by hiding inside cells. Conventional antimicrobial agents are unable to penetrate or be retained in the infected mammalian cells. Recent approaches to overcome these limitations have focused on load-carrier systems, requiring a triggered discharge leading to complex release kinetics. The unison of potent antimicrobial activity with high mammalian cell compatibility is a prerequisite for intracellular activity, which is not well-met by otherwise well-established inorganic systems, such as silver-based nanoparticles. In this work, load and carrier are combined into one functional inorganic nanoparticle system, which unites antimicrobial activity with mammalian cell compatibility. These multicomponent nanohybrids based on cerium oxide are produced in one step, yet unite complex materials. The nanoparticles form suprastructures of similar size and surface charge as bacteria, therefore facilitating the uptake into the same subcellular compartments, where they unleash their antibacterial effect. Such intrinsically antibacterial nanohybrids significantly reduce bacterial survival inside macrophages without harming the latter. Furthermore, blocking of nanoparticle endocytosis and subcellular electron microscopy elucidate the mechanism of action. Taken together, this work presents the first demonstration of antibacterial activity of ceria-based nanoparticles inside of mammalian cells and offers a route to straightforward and robust intracellular antibacterial agents that do not depend on payload delivery or biological constituents.