Malaysian PhD student and team find possible solution


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 18 Sep 2016

PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian doctorate student is causing a buzz in the medical research field.

Lam Shu Jie (pic), 25, and her team of researchers may have found a solution to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria commonly known as “superbugs”.

The team from Melbourne School of Engineering published a paper on Monday on a new treatment method.

Shu Lam A 25 year-old Melbourne Uni student has made a discovery that could be a game-changer for modern medicine and avert a serious health crisis.

The method uses star-shaped structures called structurally nano-engineered anti-microbial peptide polymers (SNAPPs).

SNAPPs are found to be highly effective in killing Gram-negative bacteria – a class of bacteria which is antibiotic resistant – without hurting healthy cells, according to the team’s article in Nature Microbiology.

Unlike antibiotics which attempt to kill the bugs chemically, the star-shaped protein molecules defeat them by “ripping apart their cell walls”.

The scientific breakthrough was picked up by many news portals including Science Daily, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the South China Morning Post.

Lam told South China Morning Post that she spent the past three and a half years researching polymers and how they can be used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The Batu Pahat lass, who is to submit her PhD thesis in two months, admitted that she hoped to continue to work in research, rather than opt for medical training like her father who is a paediatrician.

“I think my career will be mainly focused on research in the medical field,” said Lam.

Her supervisor Prof Greg Qiao, who is also one of the 10 co-authors of the scientific journal, said the research was still in its early stages.

He told South China Morning Post that more work was needed to verify the best formula and structure, as well as determine dosage and test for toxicity, before the substance could be deemed safe for human use.

“Even with all the money in the world, it would take at least five years to get to the first human-test stage because many resources and much work are needed before commercialisation,” he said.

Superbugs stem from misuse or overuse of antibiotics, according to the World Health Organisation.

It lists anti-microbial resistance as a global concern that threatens our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability and death.

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