Scientists at the University of British Columbia say that coating medical devices with a mimic of one of "nature's antibiotics", which they have recently discovered, may prevent infection and rejection.
The researchers have revealed that they have basically found that a synthetic form, short tethered cationic antimicrobial peptides (peptide), can protect surfaces, like those of medical devices, killing bacteria and fungi that come into contact with them.
Peptides are small proteins, according to background information in a research article in the journal Chemistry and Biology.
Surgical implants, catheters, hip replacements, joint prostheses, and similar other medical devices have the tendency to become infected with bacteria, which may lead to problems like degeneration or rejection of the implant.
Experts presently use the metal silver to coat medical devices due to its anti-microbial properties.
The researchers point out that nature's antibiotics are short naturally peptides that are produced by all complex organisms including humans and animals, for protection against microbial infections.
According to them, such peptides can be found in cells and tissues, on the skin and mucosal surfaces and in fluids like blood, sweat and tears.
"The rapid progress of biomedical technology and an aging population places increasing demands on medical implants to treat serious tissue disorders and replace organ function," says Robert Hancock, principal investigator and Canada Research Chair in Pathogenomics and Antimicrobials at UBC's Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
"The risk of infection after surgical implantation ranges from one to seven per cent, but is associated with considerable morbidity, repeated surgeries and prolonged therapy.
"These cationic peptides are currently being developed as soluble antibiotics for administration to patients to combat infection. We have developed a new method for finding a variety of effective peptides that can bind to a surface and still kill harmful bacteria and fungus," adds Hancock.
He has revealed that the special property of such peptides is that they are active when attached to surfaces. Not all peptides that are effective as antibiotics in solution are also active when bound to surfaces.
The bacteria loses its integrity when it come into contact with these peptides, and destroys itself.
"Infections associated with the insertion of surgical implants are a common and serious complication. Prevention of such infections remains a priority and in particular there is an urgent need to coat the surfaces of medical devices, including implants, with antimicrobial agents to reduce the risk of infection," says Hancock.