University Researchers’ Polymers Prevent Bacterial Attachment To Devices

In short

We’ve covered biofilms and bacterial attachment to surfaces in the past and there is a significant amount of university based research being undertaken around the world into the subject. In one such article concerning the attachment of bacterial colonies to surfaces, scientists at UK’s University of Nottingham may have identified a new class of polymers that could lead to a significant reduction in hospital infections and medical device failures by preventing bacterial attachment to their surfaces.


Medical-device-associated infections can lead to systemic infections or device failure, putting patients at risk and costing healthcare providers a significant amount of money. Bacteria form communities known as biofilms. This ‘strength in numbers approach’ protects them against the body’s natural defences and antibiotics. Bacterial attachment and subsequent biofilm formation are therefore key significant challenges to the performance of medical devices.

Experts in Nottingham University’s Schools of Pharmacy and Molecular Medical Sciences, have shown that when their new materials are applied to the surface of medical devices they repel bacteria and prevent them forming biofilms.

The research was led by Professor Morgan Alexander, and Professor Martyn Davies in the School of Pharmacy and Professor Paul Williams in the School of Molecular Medical Sciences. The results of the £1.3m four year research project supported by a Translation Award from the Wellcome Trust, have been published in the prestigious academic journal Nature Biotechnology.

Researchers screened thousands of different chemistries and tested their reaction to bacteria. The resultant new materials prevent infection by stopping biofilm formation at the earliest possible stage — when the bacteria first attempt to attach themselves to the device. In the laboratory experts were able to reduce the numbers of bacteria by up to 96.7per cent — compared with a commercially available silver-containing catheter — and were effective at resisting bacterial attachment in a mouse implant infection model. By preventing bacterial attachment the body’s own immune system can kill the bacteria before they have time to generate biofilms.

This promising  early stage research will be followed by manufacturing development of these coatings to enable the performance to be clinically assessed. The inventors are in early stage discussions with a number of medical device companies.


Ted Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust, said: “Infections caused by microbial biofilms binding to the surface of implants often cannot be treated with conventional antibiotics. This makes them a significant challenge in patient care, particularly for those with inserted medical devices like catheters, heart valves and prosthetic joints. The discovery of these new polymers is a great example of how advances in materials science are being exploited in our efforts to improve the performance of critical medical components. Just as materials science gave us the non-stick saucepan, so we look forward to the day of the ‘non-stick’ medical device.”

Source: The University of Nottingham