The emergence of antimicrobial resistance represents a significant health and economic challenge worldwide. The slow pace of antibacterial discovery necessitates strategies for optimal use of existing agents, including effective diagnostics able to drive informed prescribing; and development of alternative therapeutic strategies that go beyond traditional small-molecule approaches. Thus, the development of novel probes able to target bacteria for detection and killing, and that can pave the way to effective theranostic strategies, is of great importance. Here we demonstrate that metal-free green-emitting fluorescent carbon dots (FCDs) synthesized from glucosamine.HCl and m-phenylenediamine, and featuring 2,5-deoxyfructosazine on a robust amorphous core, can label both Gram-positive (Staphylococcus aureus) and Gram-negative (Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa) bacterial pathogens within 10 minutes of exposure. Moreover, effective killing of Gram-positive and -negative bacteria can be induced by combining FCD treatment with irradiation by LED light in the visible range. Cell-based, electron microscopy and Tandem Mass Tag (TMT) proteomic experiments indicate that FCD administration in combination with LED exposure gives rise to local heating, ROS production, and membrane- and DNA-damage, suggesting multiple routes to FCD-mediated bacterial killing. Our data identify FCDs as materials that combine facile synthesis from low-cost precursors with labelling and light-dependent killing of clinically important bacterial species, and that thus warrant further exploration as the potential bases for novel theranostics.
- BCS and TECS CDTs