Bed of Nails against Implant Infections

Foto: Biofilm of Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria

Using the compound to coat these medical devices, the researchers say, could help prevent thousands of bacterial and yeast infections annually.

In their laboratory studies, chitosan - a sugar in the cells of crabs and shrimp - repelled bacteria and yeast, effectively preventing these microbes from forming slimy, glue-like layers of infectious cells, known as biofilms, Philip Stewart, Ph.D., director of MSU's Center for Biofilm Engineering, said. These biofilms account for up to 65 percent of the bacterial infections in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers say that while chitosan is well known for its antimicrobial activity, this is the first time its anti-biofilm activity has been described.

"Coating chitosan onto a surface seems to stop bacteria and yeast from colonizing that surface," Stewart said. "Chitosan almost acts like a bed of nails. If a microbe alights on it, the chitosan skewers it or causes it to leak. That might not kill microbes outright, but it certainly discourages them from establishing a foothold."

If further testing in animals and humans proves successful, coating these devices with chitosan could become an important first line of defense, according to Stewart. "I don't want to claim we've fully solved the problem here," he said, "but … I think over the next 10 years we're going to be seeing new technologies in the form of coatings that will prevent or at least reduce the incidence of infection."

MEDICA.de; Source: American Chemical Society