Antibiotic-resistant bacteria ‘superbugs’ are an emerging threat to public health due to the decrease in effective antibiotics as well as the slowed pace of development of new antibiotics to replace those that become ineffective. The need for new antimicrobial agents is a well-documented issue relating to world health. Tremendous efforts have been given to developing compounds that not only show high efficacy, but also those that are less susceptible to resistance development in the bacteria. However, the development of newer, stronger antibiotics which can overcome these acquired resistances is still a scientific challenge because a new mode of antimicrobial action is likely required. To that end, amphiphilic, cationic polymers have emerged as a promising candidate for further development as an antimicrobial agent with decreased potential for resistance development. These polymers are designed to mimic naturally occurring host-defense antimicrobial peptides which act on bacterial cell walls or membranes. Antimicrobial-peptide mimetic polymers display antibacterial activity against a broad spectrum of bacteria including drug-resistant strains and are less susceptible to resistance development in bacteria. These polymers also showed selective activity to bacteria over mammalian cells. Antimicrobial polymers provide a new molecular framework for chemical modification and adaptation to tune their biological functions. The peptide-mimetic design of antimicrobial polymers will be versatile, generating a new generation of antibiotics toward implementation of polymers in biomedical applications. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2013, 5:49–66. doi: 10.1002/wnan.1199
Conflict of interest: K. K. is a coinventor on a patent application filed by the University of Pennsylvania covering ‘Antimicrobial Copolymers and Uses Thereof’. The patent application has been licensed to PolyMedix Inc. (Radnor, PA). PolyMedix did not play a role in the design and conduct of this study; in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of the data; or in the preparation, review, or approval of the article.
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