The application of anti-microbial coating over artificial implants such as hip, knee implants and catheters have been found to reduce the infection rates following surgery. This would indirectly be associated with a significant reduction in the health care cost and an improvement in the quality of life of the patients.
Following surgery, the implantable devices are prone for infection. In a majority of the cases, such infections cannot be managed by using commonly available antibiotics. This necessitates the need for a second surgery to remove the implant from the site of infection to be followed by cleansing of the infected wound and a second replacement.
Another major source for acquired infections is the catheter, commonly placed inside the body for urinary drainage. These devices can spread the bacterial infections from the skin to the site of incision. Under rare conditions, it has also been known to cause anaphylactic shock, leading to death. Potential infections due to long term use of catheters are minimized by removal and replacement of the catheter at frequent intervals. This again means an additional expense for the patient.
Some of these bacteria that are present on medical devices even settle on contact lenses, leading to eye infection and inflammation.
Nanometer size (of the order of 10-9 m) coatings are currently being developed to be used over biomedical implants and devices to prevent bacterial infection and colonisation that would otherwise lead to sepsis. Following the finding that molecules called furanones (naturally occurring compound, extracted from algae) can prevent bacterial and fungal colonisation; attempts are being made to incorporate these compounds as a form of coating over biomedical devices.
As soon as bacteria adhere to any surface, they anchor themselves strongly by reaching out to other bacteria with the release of chemical called homoserine lactones. This enables the bacteria to achieve a sufficient density as a group on the surface. Followed by this, they then start producing a thin biofilm for protection against anti-biotics. The furanones are believed to prevent colonisation by destroying the signal transduction mechanism of the bacteria.
Another advantage of the use of these compounds is that they do not kill the bacteria. Therefore, the phenomenon of bacterial resistance would be virtually non-existent.
The researchers next step is to work towards development of anti-microbial contact lenses and other anti-microbial biomedical devices. If fruitful, it would mean a considerable health benefit for innumerable patients worldwide. It would also provide for a considerable reduction in the health care cost, the benefits of which can be channelised into research and development sector.