To Keep Bacteria Off Medical Devices, Coat Them In This Slippery Liquid

With antibiotic resistant microbes on the rise, plenty of researchers are looking into ways of thwarting the stubborn little devils. Scientists are working on everything, from air cocoons and electrical implants, to many other complicated alternatives. Now the most recent solution? A non-stick coating for medical devices.

The Harvard-developed coating isn’t your standard Teflon. Instead it is a silicone polymer that is ‘infused‘ with a silicone oil, a liquid so slippery that bacteria just slide off it, preventing the formation of dangerous biofilms, or mats of microorganisms. Biofilms can form on many different surfaces (think plaque on teeth) but when it forms on medical devices, they can cause serious infections.

This new silicone material can be used to coat surfaces like catheters, with the silicone oil acting like a kind of second coating, consistently coming to the surface of the catheter even if other liquids (water, blood, urine, etc.) rinse off some of the oil. Because the polymer can hold so much oil, the coating can be used over long periods of time, and it can be sterilized like other medical materials. The researchers hope that this material, and other liquid infused polymers like it could eventually be used for numerous applications, including preventing buildup in oil pipes, sewage systems, and more.

“Each technology in our portfolio has different properties and potential uses, but collectively this range of approaches to surface coatings can prevent a broad range of life-threatening problems, from ice accumulation on airplane wings to bacterial infections in the human body,” said lead author of the study Joanna Aizenberg.

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