If you ever have to use a medical device, there’s a serious problem you have to be aware of - infection. Many people don’t realize that millions of patients contract bacterial infections every year from medical devices that are supposed to improve their health. But bacteria can easily coat medical devices with infectious biofilms.
Professor Mohan Jacob, Head of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at James Cook University, leads a team investigating the problem. He said, “Just in the U.S., about 17 million new biofilm-related infections are reported annually, leading to approximately 550,000 fatalities each year. It’s thought about 80% of worldwide surgery-associated infections may relate to biofilm formation.”
Fortunately, Professor Jacob and his fellow researchers have come up with an innovative way to reduce the number of infections from these medical devices. And if we can prevent the infections in the first place, we don’t have to treat them with antibiotics.
The answer to these bacterial infections came from essential oils. You probably use these in your home to prevent and treat illness. But one of these natural plant extracts, tea tree oil, is a natural antibacterial that the researchers wanted to study closer.
Since you can’t just spray medical devices down with tea tree oil, the James Cook team is investigating ways to turn them into polymer coatings.
In a process that sounds like science fiction, they expose essential oil vapors to a glow discharge. This allows them to adhere to a medical device as a solid. But this solid coating is still biologically active.
The researchers are having good success so far. And the process is more environmentally friendly than using harsh chemicals. So that’s another win. Plus, the coatings are transparent, so manufacturers could even use them on devices like contact lenses.
I’m excited about the potential here. I hope the medical and research communities continue to see the need for innovative solutions like this. I’d love to see this solution successfully implemented on a wide range of medical devices in the future.
In the meantime, please do your part to combat antibiotic resistance. I’ve written before about ways you can fight infections without antibiotics. Check the archives on my website for more information. Never take an antibiotic for a viral infection. And try to choose antibiotic-free meats at the grocery store as well. Small changes can add really up.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD