Resistance to conventional antibiotics is a growing public health concern that is quickly outpacing the development of new antibiotics. This has led the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) to designate Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species as "ESKAPE pathogens" on the basis of the rapidly decreasing availability of useful antibiotics. This emphasizes the urgent need for alternative therapeutic strategies to combat infections caused by these and other bacterial pathogens. In this study, we used Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) as a proof-of-principle ESKAPE pathogen to demonstrate that an appropriate antibiotic (daptomycin) can be incorporated into polydopamine-coated gold nanocages (AuNC@PDA) and that daptomycin-loaded AuNC@PDA can be conjugated to antibodies targeting a species-specific surface protein (staphylococcal protein A; Spa) as a means of achieving selective delivery of the nanoconstructs directly to the bacterial cell surface. Targeting specificity was confirmed by demonstrating a lack of binding to mammalian cells, reduced photothermal and antibiotic killing of the Spa-negative species Staphylococcus epidermidis, and reduced killing of S. aureus in the presence of unconjugated anti-Spa antibodies. We demonstrate that laser irradiation at levels within the current safety standard for use in humans can be used to achieve both a lethal photothermal effect and controlled release of the antibiotic, thus resulting in a degree of therapeutic synergy capable of eradicating viable S. aureus cells. The system was validated using planktonic bacterial cultures of both methicillin-sensitive and methicillin-resistant S. aureus strains and subsequently shown to be effective in the context of an established biofilm, thus indicating that this approach could be used to facilitate the effective treatment of intrinsically resistant biofilm infections.
Keywords: antimicrobial; biofilm; daptomycin; gold nanocages; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; polydopamine.