26-Mar-2012

Scientists develop bacteria-busting catheter coating

Non-contact atomic force microscopy showing the topography of a glass surface coated with a positively charged antimicrobial compound. Credit: The University of Manchester

Scientists at the University of Manchester in the UK are developing a new catheter coating that reduces bacterial attachment to its surface.

The researchers are reporting on their work at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin this week.

The antimicrobial coating could eventually be applied to other medical implants to reduce infection, which would provide significant benefits to the NHS in the UK.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) account for 25% of all hospital infections and cost the NHS around £125m each year. The major predisposing factor for UTIs is the presence of a urinary catheter, upon which bacteria clump together in biofilms. Bacteria in biofilms coat themselves in a sticky substance that provides a barrier to antibiotics, making infections difficult to clear. If the catheter is not regularly replaced, the infection may spread beyond the bladder, causing potentially life-threatening complications.

The scientists are trying to find a new antimicrobial catheter coating that will reduce the need for catheter replacement, which is costly, time-consuming and causes distress to patients.

According to Nishal Govindji, who is working on the project, the team has been investigating a range of positively charged compounds, which have antimicrobial effects.

“We have identified a solution containing a group of positively charged compounds which, in combination, are excellent at killing the bacteria such as Escherichia coli that attach to catheters,” she said.

“Observing the coating under the microscope, when applied on to a glass surface, has given us an idea of how it might work to prevent biofilms from forming on surfaces. This combination of compounds is completely new and the results are very promising.”

If this antimicrobial compound is successful at coating a surface to kill bacteria that would attach to urinary catheters, Govindji is hopeful that the team can extend its use to coat other types of catheters and medical devices such as artificial heart valves and other prosthetic devices.

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