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Synthetic amphiphilic polymers have been established as potentially efficient agents to combat widespread deadly infections involving antibiotic resistant superbugs. Incorporation of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) side chains into amphiphilic copolymers can reduce their hemolytic activity while maintaining high antibacterial activity. Our study found that the incorporation of PEG has substantially different effects on the hemolytic and antibacterial activities of copolymers depending on structural variations in the positions of cationic centers relative to hydrophobic groups. The PEG side chains dramatically reduced the hemolytic activities in copolymers with hydrophobic hexyl and cationic groups on the same repeating unit. However, in case of terpolymers with cationic and lipophilic groups placed on separate repeating units, the presence of PEG has significantly lower effect on hemolytic activities of these copolymers. PEGylated terpolymers displayed substantially lower activity against Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) than Escherichia coli (E. coli) suggesting the deterring effect of S. aureus’ peptidoglycan cell wall against the penetration of PEGylated polymers. Time-kill studies confirmed the bactericidal activity of these copolymers and a 5 log reduction in E. coli colony forming units was observed within 2 h of polymer treatment.


This work was originally published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, available at doi:10.3390/ijms161023867.



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