Malaysian superbug slayer
PETALING JAYA: She is only
25, hails from Batu Pahat and has a potential weapon in her hands to obliterate the global superbug menace.
PhD student Lam Shu Jie is currently courting international media attention for her “very significant and promising” discovery in modern medicine’s toughest war zone - the battle against the worldwide superbug scourge.
It is estimated that superbugs could cost US$100 trillion and millions of lives globally by 2050. Working with Australian scientists at the University of Melbourne, Lam developed a chain of star-shaped polymer molecules that can destroy bacteria resistant to antibiotics without hurting healthy cells.
She made her discovery in the course of her thesis research on antimicrobials and superbugs.
“I’ve spent the past three and a half years researching polymers and looking at how they can be used to kill antibiotic resistant bacteria or superbugs," she told This Week
in Asia, adding the star-shaped polymers work by tearing into the surface membrane of the bacteria, triggering the cell to kill itself.
A polymer is a large molecule composed of several similar subunits bonded together. Polymers can be used to attack superbugs physically, unlike antibiotics that attempt to kill
these bugs chemically and killing nearby healthy cells in the process.
“Using the polymer, bacteria doesn’t exhibit the same resistance as it does to antibiotics and can still be killed after multiple generations of mutations,” Lam’s PhD supervisor, Prof Greg Qiao told This Week in Asia.
“The components of the polymer can also be tweaked differently depending on the application,” said Qiao, who also leads the Polymer Science Group and is a professor of
macromolecular chemistry and engineering at the university’s School of Engineering.
The World Health Organisation lists superbugs as a key threat to human health, having adapted to become resistant to all forms of antibiotics. The UN General Assembly
has called a meeting this month to address the superbug explosion.
According to Lam, superbugs will cause around 10 million deaths per year by 2050.
Good seeds, good fruits
Biofortification pioneers Drs Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low and Howarth Bouis are 2016 World Food Prize
BY SHAMIRA SHAMSUDDIN
KUALA LUMPUR : Quality seeds beget quality fruits. It took Datuk Ahmad Zakaria Mohamad Sidek, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry to knock home this point.
Speaking at the 9th National Seed Symposium here recently, Ahmad Zakaria pointed out that local seed production is low and unable to meet demand.
He also pointed out that inbred varieties produced locally are inferior to the imported hybrid varieties.
“In a climate of globalisation and trade liberalisation, Malaysian agricultural products must be produced at a competitive cost and at high quality,” Ahmad Zakaria added.
He also said in a globally competitive market environment, there must be improved production efficiency to meet the demand for high quality seeds and planting materials,
said Ahmad Zakaria.
He also noted that the availability of good quality seeds plays a major role in the food security of a nation.
The two-day symposium was organised by the National Seed Association Malaysia (NSAM) in collaboration with Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Malaysian Agricultural
Research Development Institute (Mardi) and Department of Agriculture (DOA).
He said if the local seed industry is not able to meet with the demand in terms of quality and quantity, then the environment must be made favourable for the importation of seeds from foreign countries.