A team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) and the CIBER of Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN) has developed an intelligent “nanokiller” based on a component of cinnamon essential oil (cinnamaldehyde) for use as an antimicrobial agent.

   So far, the new nanodevice has shown great effectiveness against pathogenic microorganisms such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. It could be applied to eliminate pathogens that may be present in food, wastewater and in the treatment of nosocomial infections, which are those acquired during hospital stays, the UPV highlights in a statement.

   In the case of Escherichia coli, most strains are harmless, although there are some that can cause intense abdominal cramps or acute diarrhea and vomiting. In the case of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, its effects can be skin infections, bloodstream infections, osteomyelitis or pneumonia. Meanwhile, Candida albicans is a type of fungus that can be found in different biological fluids, causing infections such as candidemia or invasive candidiasis.

   According to the IDM-CIBER NanoSens group team, the application of this “nanokiller” would be very simple. “For example, we could create a spray and make a formulation based on water and other compounds and apply it directly. In the field, we could make a water-based formulation and spray directly, as is done with any pesticide today.

   And in hospitals it could be applied on bandages and they could even try to create a capsule that could be taken orally,” explains Andrea Bernardos, researcher in the NanoSens group of the Interuniversity Research Institute for Molecular Recognition and Technological Development (IDM).

   The new nanodevice improves the effectiveness of encapsulated cinnamaldehyde compared to the free compound: about 52 times in the case of Escherichia coli, about 60 times in that of Staphylococcus aureus and about 7 times in that of Candida albicans.

   “The increase in the antimicrobial activity of the essential oil component is possible thanks to the decrease in its volatility due to its encapsulation in a porous silica matrix and the increase in its local concentration when released, due to the presence of the microorganisms” , highlights Andrea Bernardos

   Among its advantages, it stands out for its great antimicrobial activity at very low doses. In addition, it enhances the antimicrobial properties of free cinnamaldehyde with a reduction in the biocide dose of around 98% in the case of bacterial strains (Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus) and 72% for the yeast strain (Candida albicans) when apply the nanodevice.

   “In addition, these types of devices containing natural biocides (such as essential oil components) whose release is controlled by the presence of pathogens, could also be applied in fields such as biomedicine, food technology, agriculture and many others,” concludes Ángela Morellá-Aucejo, researcher also in the NanoSens-IDM group at the Universitat Politècnica de València.