Developing protective coating to fight off superbugs

Bacteria close up. Image credit:

CSIRO is working on an innovative solution to reduce the number of deaths caused by drug resistant infections resulting from medical device use.

Bacteria close up.
Image credit:

Led by Dr Berklay Ozcelik – a Postdoctoral Fellow in CSIRO’s Manufacturing business unit – the research seeks to reduce the emergence of “superbugs” and to minimise antibiotic use by preventing bacterial infections associated with medical devices from occurring in the first place.

Dr Ozcelik, who was named the 2016 winner of the “Fresh Science” program for developing a special film that may help repair damaged corneas and reduce the need for donors, said he’s developed a polymer based coating for implantable medical devices that combines multiple defence mechanisms to prevent bacteria from colonising the surface and forming into a biofilm antibiotics can’t penetrate.

“Modern medical science uses implantable devices including catheters, endotracheal tubes, and device drivelines,” he said.

“They help in the treatment and recovery of patients and save countless lives but as they enter the body, their surfaces can also serve as a platform for bacteria to grow and infect the patient. Our novel polymer coating provides multiple layers of defence to stop this. Tests have shown it reduces bacterial colonisation on surfaces by more than 99 per cent.”

Comprising biocompatible polymers and synthetic peptides, Dr Ozcelik’s polymer coating stops bacterial cells but doesn’t harm human cells or blood. Moreover, his coating method doesn’t involve several complex steps, an oxygen free environment or toxic solvents to bond, which is not the case with other coating methods currently available.

“It’s a one step process using commercially available precursors”, Dr Ozcelik added.

“It’s as simple as spraying or otherwise applying the coating on medical equipment, then letting it dry. That’s it. You shouldn’t have to reapply the coating at all.”