Indwelling catheters create a conduit from the outside world into your dark, warm, moist body. In most cases, it’s only a matter of time before an infection develops, right?
Now a “smart catheter” is being developed that releases an anti-bacterial agent in response to an infection. The device could be used to fight both blood and urinary tract infections and extend the operational life of the devices. The catheters can chemically detect changes in pH to “sense” bacterial growth. At that point, it deploys just enough nitric oxide to disperse the bacteria and switches off to conserve its payload of the chemical. This research breakthrough was announced at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.
Speaking at the event, Dipankar Koley, PhD explained that approximately 1.5-million infections are reported in the United States annually. This leads to 99,000 deaths and costs up to $45 billion, according to Koley. In addition, the technology is effective against all bacterial strains, whether Gram-positive or Gram-negative.
“Urinary tract infections, as one example, are the most common source of institutionally acquired infections in both acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities,” Koley said. “Our smart catheter is being developed in response to that need.”
It may be a while before such smart catheters hit the market, however, as Koley describes the technology as being in a “very early stage of development.”
From the press release:
Koley, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Mark Meyerhoff, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan, said the research team (including Chuanwu Xi, Ph.D., and Jianfeng Wu, Ph.D., in the School of Public Health at U of M) calls the new device an “electromodulated smart catheter.” He explained that bacterial infections can start on the surface of catheters, soft, flexible tubes inserted into blood vessels to deliver medication and for other purposes, and into the urinary tract of patients to drain urine. Some of the 30 million urinary catheters inserted each year, for instance, remain in place briefly, such as during surgical procedures. Other patients require long-term catheterization, such as patients undergoing kidney dialysis, and people in intensive care units and long-term care facilities. Many already are in frail health or are critically ill. Thus, major efforts are underway in health care settings to prevent catheter-related infections.
Infection-fighting catheters already are available, and work by releasing antibiotic substances, Koley said. These are “unintelligent catheters,” however, releasing the substances continuously, and thus soon become depleted and lose their antibiotic effect. The new smart catheter senses the start of an infection, and only then releases its antibiotic substance, which is nitric oxide (NO). In lab experiments lasting 7 days, test catheters have continued to release NO, and Koley and colleagues believe that can be extended to weeks.