Destruction of Opportunistic Pathogens via Polymer Nanoparticle-Mediated Release of Plant-Based Antimicrobial Payloads

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The synthesis of antimicrobial thymol/carvacrol-loaded polythioether nanoparticles (NPs) via a one-pot, solvent-free miniemulsion thiol-ene photopolymerization process is reported. The active antimicrobial agents, thymol and carvacrol, are employed as “solvents” for the thiol-ene monomer phase in the miniemulsion to enable facile high capacity loading (≈50% w/w), excellent encapsulation efficiencies (>95%), and elimination of all postpolymerization purification processes. The NPs serve as high capacity reservoirs for slow-release and delivery of thymol/carvacrol-combination payloads that exhibit inhibitory and bactericidal activity (>99.9% kill efficiency at 24 h) against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including both saprophytic (Bacillus subtilisATCC 6633 andEscherichia coliATCC 25922) and pathogenic species (E. coliATCC 43895,Staphylococcus aureusRN6390, andBurkholderia cenocepaciaK56-2). This report is among the first to demonstrate antimicrobial efficacy of essential oil-loaded nanoparticles againstB. cenocepacia– an innately resistant opportunistic pathogen commonly associated with debilitating respiratory infections in cystic fibrosis. Although a model platform, these results point to promising pathways to particle-based delivery of plant-derived extracts for a range of antimicrobial applications, including active packaging materials, topical antiseptics, and innovative therapeutics.

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