A novel antimicrobial catheter that remains infection-free for up to twelve weeks could dramatically improve the lives of long-term catheter users. The scientists who have developed the new technology are presenting their work at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham have developed a catheter that can kill most urinary bacteria, including most strains of Proteus bacteria - the most common cause of catheter infections. Importantly the antimicrobial catheter retains its activity for between six to twelve weeks, making it suitable for long-term use, unlike existing commercial anti-infection catheters.
Urinary catheters are commonly used to manage incontinence in the elderly or individuals who have suffered long-term spinal cord injury. All catheters become infected after a couple of weeks and Proteus bacteria are responsible for up to 40% of these infections. The bacterium sticks to catheter surfaces and breaks down urea, causing the pH of urine to rise. This causes deposits of mineral crystals in the catheter which blocks it, preventing drainage. If unnoticed, catheter blockage can lead to kidney and bloodstream infections, which ultimately may result in potentially fatal septic shock.