Scientists are developing a new catheter coating that reduces bacterial attachment to its surface. They are presenting their findings 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 socioeconomic benefits to the NHS.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) account for 25% of all hospital infections and cost the NHS around £125 million each year. The major predisposing factor for UTIs is the presence of a urinary catheter, upon which bacteria clump together in communities called 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. Catheter replacement is costly, time consuming and causes distress to patients.
Preventing biofilm formation will not only reduce NHS costs by prolonging the life of the catheter but also minimise possible patient complications. "If we can prevent bacteria from attaching to a catheter surface by just an extra 24 hours, it will save a lot of money for the NHS and most importantly, it will save a lot of stress to patients by reducing the risk of serious infection and minimizing discomfort," said Miss Govindji. "In the future, if this antimicrobial compound is successful at coating a surface to kill bacteria that would attach to urinary catheters, we are hopeful that we can extend its use to coat other types of catheters and medical devices such as artificial heart valves and other prosthetic devices," she said.