Mahrenholz with the patch. Image: Wacker Chemie / Jan Michael Hosan

German company Coldplasmatech has developed a new wound-treatment method that speeds up healing and kills bacteria without the use of antibiotics. Their treatment, as the company name subtly hints, involves cold plasma — the state of matter least understood by the general population.

In this case, “plasma” means the ionized state of matter, rather than platelet-rich plasma (PRP) — the liquid in which our blood cells are suspended. PRP itself has shown great promise in wound healing and skin regeneration, too: you might have heard of the “vampire facial” or the many studies worldwide using PRP to heal chronic wounds.

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Vet administering an antibiotic tube to prevent mastitis in dairy cattle. (Wayne Hutchinson/Farm Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Our best medicines are losing their power. Since the 1940s, antibiotics have stopped infections from turning deadly, saving millions of lives around the world. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, surgery was more dangerous, now-curable diseases like STDs and tuberculosis killed millions, and a paper cut could be fatal. However, overuse and misuse of these drugs have led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of “superbugs.” Older types of antibiotics have been rendered useless by these powerful bacteria, compelling researchers to develop new generations of stronger varieties. Now those newer drugs are losing their effectiveness as well, and the World Health Organization has raised the alarm: We are running out of cures.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO. “There is an urgent need for more investment in research and development for antibiotic-resistant infections including TB, otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

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[DIGEST: ScienceAlert, The Telegraph, The Sydney Morning Herald, Phys.org]

Bacteria are evolving faster than we can find ways to kill them. When bacteria become resistant to superbugs—usually through overuse or incorrect use of antibiotics—they become superbugs. These superbugs are now responsible for at least 700,000 deaths a year, and that number is expected to skyrocket to 10 million by 2050. As Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said in 2012, “A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

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