Surgery is a risky business, but when you take into account the potential for infection, the risk shoots up even more. Now, however, scientists have found a way to make medical devices safer — and all it takes is a sticky surface created by our old friend penicillin!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health care-associated infections (HAIs) — which are infections acquired by patients during medical treatment or by health care workers on the job — make up two million infections and 90,000 deaths in hospitals every year. On top of the human cost that number translates to over $4.5 billion in additional costs to the health care system every year!
However, HAIs can be common, as the human body is extremely susceptible to bacteria. So, no matter how sterile the hospital environment is, the body itself is not. That’s where this latest development comes in.
University of Southern Mississippi (USM) researchers have come up with a way to coat different medical devices and equipment — such as catheters, and surgical implants, and instruments — with bacteria-fighting antibiotics.
“Polytetrafluoroethylene” is the stuff that’s used as a non- stick coating on pots and pans, and it’s also used on medical devices and instruments. The USM team was able to alter the non-stick substance so that an antibiotic, in this case, penicillin, could glue onto it. With the antibiotic glued in place, no bacteria could stick to a coated device — and it would kill any bacteria it came into contact with.
The USM researchers tested this penicillin coating and found that it could destroy a dangerous type of bacterium: “Staphylococcus aureus.” However, the research goes on, as the team hopes to be able to do the same with other antibiotics, in order to be able to fight a wider range of bacteria and with other surfaces. It will be a while yet, but it looks like hospitals should be able to reduce your risk of infection with this ingenious antibiotic coating.