60-Second Science

Nonstick Surface on Med Devices Could Keep Bacteria at Bay

In lab tests, catheters coated with a nonstick surface harbored far fewer staph bacteria than conventional devices. Gretchen Cuda Kroen reports

Nasty bacteria cling to the surfaces of countertops. They also stick to medical devices—like catheters—that are placed inside the human body, where they can become a dangerous source of infection.

Individually, bacteria are fairly easily killed. But if they multiply on a surface, they eventually form a biofilm—a tightly organized bacterial community that can fight off antibiotics and the body’s immune system.

Now, researchers have come up with a way to give those nasty bugs the “slip”— a nonstick surface that stops the biofilm from forming. The material hasn’t been tested in humans yet. But in the lab, catheters coated with the nonstick surface stayed almost completely free of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The findings were presented at the October, 2012, AVS International symposium in Tampa, which covers materials, interfaces and processing. [Andrew Hook et al., Combinatorial Discovery of Materials That Resist Bacterial Adhesion]

By denying bacteria a grip on medical devices without resorting to antibiotics, the researchers also hope to help doctors get a grip on antibiotic resistance—one of medicine’s stickiest problems.

—Gretchen Cuda Kroen

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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