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Infectious diseases pose a serious threat to global health. Although immunizations can control most viral infections, bacterial infections, particularly those caused by drug-resistant strains, continue to cause high rates of illness and death. Unfortunately, the creation of new antibiotics has come to a grinding halt in the last ten years. In response to this crisis, nanotechnology has emerged as a hopeful solution to tackle drug resistance and enhance treatment results. A large variety of biomimetic nanomaterials, termed nanozymes, have demonstrated strong antimicrobial efficacy. While the inherent toxicity of nanomaterials is a concern, recent studies have harnessed the stimuli-responsiveness of nanomaterials to enable local and/or targeted delivery to reduce the treatment side effects. Indeed, the physicochemical versatility of nanomaterials affords many degrees of freedom that enable rational design of smart or autonomous therapeutics, which cannot be achieved using conventional antibiotics. The design straddles the fields of catalysis, nanoscience, microbiology, and translational medicine. To provide an overview of this interdisciplinary landscape, this review is organized based on composition into lipid, metal, metal oxide, and non-metallic nanomaterials. Liposomes as a delivery vehicle enhance bioavailability and reduce toxicity. Metal- and metal oxide-based nanomaterials inhibit bacterial growth by mimicking natural enzymatic activities such as peroxidase (POD) and oxidase. Furthermore, carbon-, polymer-, and cell membrane-based nanomaterials are combined into a discussion on non-metallic materials. At the end of this review, potentially fruitful directions for future bioinspired nanomaterials in infectious disease treatment are included.

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Bioinspired nanomaterials for the treatment of bacterial infections

Show Author's information Xiaojing Ma,§Wenjing Tang,§Rong Yang( )
Robert F. Smith School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

§ Xiaojing Ma and Wenjing Tang contributed equally to this work.


Infectious diseases pose a serious threat to global health. Although immunizations can control most viral infections, bacterial infections, particularly those caused by drug-resistant strains, continue to cause high rates of illness and death. Unfortunately, the creation of new antibiotics has come to a grinding halt in the last ten years. In response to this crisis, nanotechnology has emerged as a hopeful solution to tackle drug resistance and enhance treatment results. A large variety of biomimetic nanomaterials, termed nanozymes, have demonstrated strong antimicrobial efficacy. While the inherent toxicity of nanomaterials is a concern, recent studies have harnessed the stimuli-responsiveness of nanomaterials to enable local and/or targeted delivery to reduce the treatment side effects. Indeed, the physicochemical versatility of nanomaterials affords many degrees of freedom that enable rational design of smart or autonomous therapeutics, which cannot be achieved using conventional antibiotics. The design straddles the fields of catalysis, nanoscience, microbiology, and translational medicine. To provide an overview of this interdisciplinary landscape, this review is organized based on composition into lipid, metal, metal oxide, and non-metallic nanomaterials. Liposomes as a delivery vehicle enhance bioavailability and reduce toxicity. Metal- and metal oxide-based nanomaterials inhibit bacterial growth by mimicking natural enzymatic activities such as peroxidase (POD) and oxidase. Furthermore, carbon-, polymer-, and cell membrane-based nanomaterials are combined into a discussion on non-metallic materials. At the end of this review, potentially fruitful directions for future bioinspired nanomaterials in infectious disease treatment are included.

Keywords: bacteria, antimicrobial, nanozyme, liposome, infectious disease, bioinspired nanomaterial



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Publication history

Publication history

Received: 15 July 2023
Revised: 18 October 2023
Accepted: 23 October 2023
Published: 07 December 2023
Issue date: February 2024


© Tsinghua University Press 2023



This work was supported by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research (ONR award N00014-20-1-2418); National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIHDC016644).