Using light and nanotechnology to prevent biofilms on medical implants

© iStock/koto_feja

A research team has used light and nanotechnology in the surgical meshes for medical implants to prevent infectious biofilms forming.

Surgical medical meshes were invented approximately 50 years ago. They have become key elements in procedures such as hernia repair. When the medical implants are used in the patient’s tissue, the mesh holds muscles tight. According to ICFO, the “flexible and conformable design…allows patients to recover much faster than through the conventional sowing and stitching.” However, there is a risk of infectious biofilms which can have serious implications.

The risk of infectious biofilms

The insertion of a medical implant carries the risk of bacterial contamination during surgery and the formation of an infectious biofilm over the mesh. This acts as an impermeable coating which means that an antibiotic agent to attack the bacteria which has formed on the film.

The antibiotic therapies fail against the super-resistant bacteria and this could result in recurring surgeries and even death for the patient.

According to the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net), in 2015 over 30,000 deaths in Europe were linked to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

Using gold nanoparticles in medical mesh

The team of researchers at ICFO and B. Braun Surgical, S.A.., developed a medical mesh which was chemically modified with millions of gold nanoparticles, which have been proven to convert light into heat in localised regions.

Image of the surgical implants, covered with gold nanoparticles (pile of meshes on the left) compared to the original surgical meshes previous to the treatment (pile of meshes on the right).
© ICFO

The importance of avoiding biofilms in medical implants and other sectors

Dr. Pau Turon, Director of Research and Development at B. Braun Surgical, S.A. explained: “our commitment to help healthcare professionals to avoid hospital related infections pushes us to develop new strategies to fight bacteria and biofilms. Additionally, the research team is exploring to extend such technology to other sectors where biofilms must be avoided.”

ICREA Prof at ICFO Romain Quidant added: “the results of this study have paved the way towards using plasmon nanotechnologies to prevent the formation of bacterial biofilm at the surface of surgical implants. There are still several issues that need to be addressed but it is important to emphasize that such a technique will indeed signify a radical change in operation procedures and further patient post recovery.”

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