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Hydrogel spray kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Professional Engineering

The spray is designed for wound care and application on biomedical implants (Credit: Anna-Lena Lundqvist)
The spray is designed for wound care and application on biomedical implants (Credit: Anna-Lena Lundqvist)

A new hydrogel-based spray can kill even antibiotic-resistant bacteria, its creators have said.

Designed for wound care and application on biomedical implants, the spray was developed at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks antibiotic resistance as one of the top 10 threats to global health, with antibiotic-resistant bacteria already estimated to cause nearly 1.3m deaths a year worldwide. 

New solutions are therefore needed to tackle resistant bacteria and reduce the use of antibiotics, the researchers said.

“Our innovation can have a dual impact in the fight against antibiotic resistance,” said Martin Andersson, head of research for the study and professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers. “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.”

The material consists of small hydrogel particles equipped with a type of peptide that effectively kills and binds bacteria. Attaching the peptides to the particles provides a protective environment and increases the stability of the peptides, the researchers said. This allows them to work together with body fluids such as blood, which otherwise inactivates the peptides, making them difficult to use in healthcare.

In previous studies, the researchers showed how the peptides can be used for wound care materials such as wound dressings. They have now published two new studies in which the bactericidal material is used in the form of a wound spray, and as a coating on medical devices that are introduced into our bodies.

The spray, which can reach into deep wounds and other open areas on the body where bacteria can enter, can be used to treat and prevent infection. 

“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,” said Edvin Blomstrand, an industrial doctoral student at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, and one of the lead authors of the scientific article.

Infections are also a major problem for treatments in which devices such as implants and catheters are inserted into the body, with urinary catheters a major source of hospital-acquired infections. The new coating can reduce this risk and prevent infections, the research announcement said.

“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,” said Annija Stepulane, a doctoral student at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers and one of the lead authors of the article.      

“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.”

In the study, the researchers tested the coating on silicone materials used for catheters, but they see opportunities to use it on other biomaterials.

The bactericidal effect of the materials lasts for up to 48 hours in contact with body fluids and reportedly as long as a few years without contact with body fluids. The researchers showed that 99.99% of bacteria are killed by the material.

The research on the antibacterial materials is being conducted in collaboration with the spin-off company Amferia AB, which is also commercialising the technology. Chalmers and Amferia have previously presented the antibacterial material in the form of hydrogel wound dressings, which are under clinical investigation for both human and animal wound care.   

The studies were published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics and ACS Applied Bio Materials.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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