Newly developed microgels could help reduce device-related infections

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Although joint replacements are a routine procedure approximately 1 in 100 patients develop post-surgical infections. New research from the Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ, USA) has developed a ‘self-defensive surface’ that can release micro-doses of antibiotics on bacterial contact, potentially combatting infection.

The study, published in Biomaterials, describes a method for coating implanted devices with a lattice of microgels capable of absorbing antibiotics.

The team suggest that the close proximity of a bacteria alters the local thermodynamic environment, interfering with the microgel–antibiotic complex and sparking contact-transfer of antimicrobials. They demonstrated that contact with bacteria was sufficient to trigger antimicrobial release, whereas contact with macrophages and osteoblasts was not, suggesting this coating could promote healing and resist infection.

In addition to preventing device-related infections, the highly targeted release of antibiotics from the microgels could help reduce selective pressures that give rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Other benefits of this newly developed microgels are that the release of antimicrobials relies only on the presence of bacteria, and not metabolic by-products, therefore the microgel could target even dormant bacteria. Moreover, the researchers demonstrated the microgels were very resilient, remaining stable for weeks at a time.

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