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Hydrogel-Based Spray Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Wounds and Biomedical Implants

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 27 Jan 2023
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Image: New spray fights infections and antibiotic resistance (Photo courtesy of Chalmers University of Technology)
Image: New spray fights infections and antibiotic resistance (Photo courtesy of Chalmers University of Technology)

Antibiotic resistance has been ranked among the top ten threats to global health by the World Health Organization (WHO). Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is estimated to cause almost 1.3 million deaths annually across the world. Hence, there is a great need for new solutions to tackle antibiotic-resistant bacteria and reduce the use of antibiotics. Infections are a major problem for treatments in which materials like implants and catheters are inserted into the patient’s body. This makes it vital to develop new antibacterial biomaterials that can treat, replace or modify organs, tissue or functions in a biological body. Now, a group of researchers is developing a new spray that can kill even antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and can be used for wound care as well as directly on implants and other medical devices.

In an effort to slow down the spread and development of drug resistance, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden) are developing a new antibacterial material for use in healthcare settings that can become an effective tool against antibiotic resistance. The material consists of small hydrogel particles that are equipped with a type of peptide that effectively kills and binds bacteria. Attaching the peptides to the particles creates a protective environment and increases their stability, allowing them to work with body fluids such as blood, which otherwise inactivates the peptides and make them difficult to use in healthcare settings.

In previous studies, the researchers had shown how the peptides can be used for wound care materials like wound dressings. Now, in two of their latest studies, the team has shown that the bactericidal material can be used both in the form of a wound spray and as a coating on medical devices implanted in the body. For both the spray and the coating, the researchers measured the bactericidal effect of the materials and found that it can last for up to 48 hours in contact with body fluids and for as long as a few years without contact with body fluids. The researchers also found that the material can kill 99.99% of the bacteria, enabling a wide range of clinical applications. Since the usage of urinary catheters is one of the primary causes of hospital-acquired infection, the researchers tested the coating on silicone materials used for catheters, although it can be also used on other biomaterials. Being non-toxic, the material can also be used directly on or in the body for preventing or curing an infection without any adverse impact on the natural healing process.

“Our innovation can have a dual impact in the fight against antibiotic resistance. The material has been shown to be effective against many different types of bacteria, including those that are resistant to antibiotics, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), while also having the potential to prevent infections and thus reduce the need for antibiotics,” said Martin Andersson, head of research for the study and Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers.

“The substance in this wound spray is completely non-toxic and does not affect human cells. Unlike existing bactericidal sprays, it does not inhibit the body’s healing process. The materials, which are simply sprayed onto the wound, can also kill the bacteria in a shorter time,” explained Edvin Blomstrand, PhD student at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers.

“Although the catheters are sterile when unpacked, they can become contaminated with bacteria while they are being introduced into the body, which can lead to infection. One major advantage of this coating is that the bacteria are killed as soon as they come into contact with the surface. Another is that it can be applied to existing products that are already used in healthcare, so it is not necessary to produce new ones,” added Annija Stepulane, PhD student at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers.

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Chalmers University of Technology 

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