A 25-year-old student has discovered a way to destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria without pummeling them with more antibiotics. Shu Lam successfully destroyed superbugs in lab tests using a star-shaped polymer that literally rips the cells to shreds. This breakthrough could signal a complete overhaul in how the medical community approaches these deadly bacteria.

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Currently, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), kill 700,000 people per year. Scientists are worried that number could skyrocket to 10 million by the year 2050, so they’re searching for ways to successful intervene before more damage is done. University of Melbourne student Shu Lam believes she may have found a solution.

Related: ‘Nightmare’ bacteria found in the U.S. resists all known antibiotics

Her study, published in Nature Microbiology, details the mechanism of SNAPPs, or structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers. SNAPPs work by directly targeting, attacking, and destabilizing the cell membranes of superbugs. They are large enough that they do not affect healthy cells, which are affected by conventional approaches that “poison” the bacteria.

So far, Lam has successfully tested SNAPPs on six different strains of superbugs in a laboratory setting, and one in live mice. In each experiment, the nasty bacteria were all killed and did not develop resistance to the polymers in future generations. The development is still in its early phases, yet Lam and her team believe they are onto something big.

Via Science Alert

Images via Wikipedia, Flickr