Swedish researchers have found a way to coat medical implants and prostheses to prevent the build-up of a biofilm of Staphylococcus aureus, the leading cause of hospital-acquired infections.
Biofilms that coat the surfaces of catheters and other medical equipment are life-threatening and a growing problem. As we reported earlier this year, is is also a difficult one to solve as antibiotics are by and large powerless against biofilms (see Microbial gangs are organised killers).
University of Gothenburg researchers Jakub Kwiecinski, Tao Jin and collaborators have now shown that coating implants with “tissue plasminogen activator” can prevent Staphylococcus aureus.
A growing biofilm requires anchoring, and in earlier research, this team, led by Jin, had discovered that S. aureus hijacks the human clotting system to create a scaffold of micro-clots to support the growing biofilm.
“We hypothesised that if we forced the human body to start dissolving those clots, we could prevent the biofilm from developing,” said Kwiecinski, a post-doctoral researcher in Jin’s laboratory.
The tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) activates the clot-dissolving protein, plasminogen.
“This deprives S. aureus of a scaffold for biofilm formation and prevents infection,” said Kwiecinski. After performing the research under laboratory conditions, they confirmed that it works by coating catheters that they then implanted into laboratory mice.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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