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Improvements for medical devices

2nd February 2009

Researchers are learning how to coat medical devices more effectively by mimicking the antibiotic agents naturally found in cells and tissues.

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The same types of proteins on the skin and mucosal surfaces, and in fluids like blood, sweat and tears, can prevent the infection and rejection of medical devices.

When bacteria infect an implanted device, it leads to the malfunction of the implant, and the body may also reject it entirely.

Silver is currently used to coat some medical devices because its antimicrobial properties make the chance of degeneration and rejection less likely.

But using a type of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a test subject, the researchers created a large library of naturally occurring peptides that kill bacteria and fungi.

The catatonic proteins that the study served to highlight have the special ability to remain active whether attached to surfaces or in solution.

This data allowed the researchers to investigate the possible interactions between medical devices and the peptides under study.

People who use devices like joint prostheses, implants, catheters, and hip replacements all have the potential to benefit from the new research.

The peptides found in nature are naturally occurring proteins produced by all complex organisms.

The bodies of humans and animals use the proteins as protection against microbial infections.

Robert Hancock said that the rapid progress of biomedical technology places increasing demands on medical implants to treat serious tissue disorders and replace organ function.

He said that the risk of infection after surgical implantation ranges from 1-7%, but is associated with considerable morbidity, repeated surgeries and prolonged therapy.

When bacteria come into contact with the peptides they lose their integrity and destroy themselves.

Hancock said that infections associated with the insertion of surgical implants are a common and serious complication, that prevention of such infections remains a priority and that, 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.

Recently, the rise of a superbug resistant to antibiotics has compounded the treatment of infections associated with implantation.

 

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