Three years ago Katharina Richter started her PhD with a determination to improve the lives of people living with a debilitating condition, Chronic Rhinosinusitis (CRS). We’re very pleased to share that she’s achieved just that!

CRS is a persistent and recurring inflammation of the sinuses affecting over three million Australians- from small children to the elderly. Patients suffer from a constant blocked nose, feel pressure-like pain in the head and have difficulty breathing, smelling and tasting. CRS reduces the quality of life tremendously and has a huge impact on people’s private and work lives.

Current treatments are mainly based on antibiotics, and surgery is frequently an inevitable intervention. Long-term medication with antibiotics follows, however, due to the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs, bacteria survive and cause a relapse of disease, worsening the life of sufferers.

The survival of disease-causing bacteria like Golden Staph lies in the formation of biofilms, which occur when bacteria form communities and produce a slimy shield that protects them from antibiotics, which ultimately leads to resistance.

Finishing her PhD at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research in April this year, Katharina has developed two new treatments for CRS not based on antibiotics – with one already in a clinical trial at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH). Her results are thanks to your support!

Katharina pictured with her life-changing nasal rinse.
Katharina pictured with her life-changing nasal rinse.

Treatment #1 – Nasal Rinse

“The first treatment I developed is a nasal rinse that contains silver nanoparticles. These are tiny particles as small as one thousandth the width of human hair. Due to their small size silver nanoparticles can penetrate through the biofilm and reach bacteria in the inner part, which are heavily protected by the slimy matrix and hard to kill by antibiotics,” Katharina said.

The silver nanoparticles are made by Katharina and are currently used in an ongoing clinical trial at TQEH, given to patients in a nasal rinse after sinus surgery.

“With the silver nanoparticle rinse we aim to kill disease-causing bacteria that were not removed during surgery and hope to prevent a comeback of the infection.”

Treatment #2 – The Gel

“The second treatment is based on two compounds that target bacterial food pathways. The first compound starves bacteria, whilst the second compound mimics their preferred food but is toxic to bacteria,” Katharina explained.

“This treatment is administered in a wound healing gel which is instilled in the sinuses after surgery. With the addition of the two compounds the gel aids wound healing and at the same time kills superbugs.

“Further research is ongoing and my colleagues and I are dedicated to bring this novel treatment to another clinical trial at TQEH.”

Your support has helped Katharina make a difference in the lives of people today living with CRS.

“My research contributes to improve the lives of CRS sufferers and my treatments can be refined to help many other patients with superbug infections. It is highly motivating to see that the results of my hard work are applied in real life and make a difference for people.”

“I am grateful for the outstanding support of THRF and the many donors. Finding cures, improving care. Together we can make a difference.”

Katharina’s achievements have also been recognised by Channel 9, she’s been named a finalist in the 2017 Young Achiever of the Year Award in the category Science and Technology. Congratulations Katharina!

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