British researchers have developed a new class of polymers that they say can repel bacteria, preventing medical-device-associated infections, medical device failure, and save England’s healthcare system £1 billion per year.
The polymer designed by researchers at University of Nottingham can be applied to the surface of medical devices, such as catheters, and prevent them from forming biofilms, reports The Engineer. The results of the research project were published in the August 12 issue of Nature Biotechnology.
The researchers suspected that there were new materials that could be designed to better resist bacteria. So they screened thousands of different chemistries and tested their research, a challenge that was beyond conventional materials development or the current understanding of how microorganisms interact with surfaces.
One of the researchers, MorganAlexander, says:
This is a major scientific breakthrough — we have discovered a new group of structurally related materials that dramatically reduce the attachment of pathogenic bacteria [Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli]. We could not have found these materials using the current understanding of bacteria-surface interactions. The technology developed with the help of MIT means that hundreds of materials could be screened simultaneously to reveal new structure-property relationships.
In total, thousands of materials were investigated using this high-throughput materials discovery approach, leading to the identification of novel materials resisting bacterial attachment. This could not have been achieved using conventional techniques.
The new materials are said to prevent infection by stopping biofilm formation when the bacteria first attempt to latch themselves on the device’s surface. Researchers were able to reduce the number of bacteria by up to 96.7% — compared with commercially available catheters that contain silver – in laboratory tests. Silver is traditionally used to prevent bacteria buildup. The research is similar to developments with selenium and plasma that aim to either prevent bacteria from accumulating or killing it.
“Infections caused by microbial biofilms binding to the surface of implants often cannot be treated with conventional antibiotics,” says Ted Blanco, director of technology transfer at the Wellcome Trust, which paid for the research. “This makes them a significant challenge in patient care, particularly for those with inserted medical devices, such as catheters, heart valves, and prosthetic joints.”
Source: “Polymers could help prevent device-associated infections,” The Engineer, 8/14/12
Source: “New bacteria-resistant materials discovered,” YouTube
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.