A novel microneedle array with ultrasound-triggered antibacterial nanoparticles is a breakthrough treatment for skin infections.

Over 80% of teenagers and young people in the world experience acne, a common skin condition.1 The main factor is an overabundance of lipid production that clogs hair follicles and creates a microenvironment in which skin tissue lacks oxygen. This unpleasant situation specifically encourages Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacterial growth. P. acnes bacteria, which affects millions of people globally, is the primary cause of infected pimple, which is considered one of skin illnesses. In addition to causing the patients tremendous physical and emotional suffering, it has the potential to become a chronic inflammatory disorder if left untreated. Clinical care typically involves the use of over-the-counter medications, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, or the topical or oral administration of antibiotics. However, these therapies could fail or have side effects.

In general, antibiotics either topically or orally are the primary line of treatment for infected pimples. However, the therapeutic outcome of topical antibiotic therapy raises questions, especially when the medications penetrate the skin tissue. Additionally, when bacteria develop antibiotic resistance or when they spread to subcutaneous tissue, the effectiveness of the treatment is reduced. Extracellular polysaccharides, in particular, are secreted by P. acnes bacterium to create biofilm, which deters attacks from immunological or antibacterial agents.

Even the majority of acne treatment microneedle treatments on the market mostly use prescription substances. However, using antibiotics frequently may make germs less sensitive to them. Long-term acne sufferers are aware of the potential side effects of using the same treatment products after long term use.

A novel microneedle patch developed by the HKUMed team allows for the transdermal delivery of ultrasound-responsive antibacterial nanoparticles, which can be used to treat P. acnes infection with the least amount of invasiveness. The microneedle patch in the current design responds to bacterial infection fast and effectively thanks to the introduction of ultrasound-responsive antibacterial nanoparticles. Drugs are not utilized in the treatment of acne. Under ultrasound stimulation, the modified ZnTCPP and ZnO nanoparticles can generate a significant amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can successfully oxidize the important bacterial cellular macromolecules.

The findings show that after 15 minutes of ultrasonic stimulation, ROS-mediated death of P. acnes bacteria can reach 99.73%. Additionally, there is a notable decrease in the levels of inflammatory markers like matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), interleukins (ILs), and tumour necrosis factor-a (TNF-a). Additionally, the zinc ions released can stimulate genes involved in DNA replication, increasing the number of fibroblasts and improving skin restoration.

The new microneedle patch that allows ROS generation upon ultrasound stimulation, considered as a non-antibiotic and transdermal strategy, can not only successfully treat the infection caused by P. acnes bacteria, but also facilitates skin repair due to zinc ion release, according to Professor Kelvin Yeung Wai-kwok. We believe that this design is also able to handle various skin illnesses brought on by fungi, parasites, or viruses, such as tinea pedis (commonly known as “Athlete’s Foot” or “Hong Kong Foot” in colloquial usage).

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