Wound dressing uses electricity to bust up antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections
An incredible new study has demonstrated the potential of a wound dressing that can fight bacterial infections using a weak electrical field. Offering a novel way to battle antibiotic resistant infections, the dressing has been approved by the FDA and is currently being tested in human burn patients.
The National Institutes of Health estimates up to 80 percent of all bacterial infections are caused by a phenotype known as a bacterial biofilm. These biofilms occur when bacterial cells adhere together to form a slimy substance, often around wounds or implanted medical devices. Bacterial biofilms can be difficult to eradicate at the best of times, a task made even more challenging with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
A variety of new techniques to battle bacterial biofilms are in development. One team from the University of Southern Florida is exploring the biofilm-busting potential of a newly discovered compound from an Antarctic sea sponge, while another team from the University of Pennsylvania is investigating micro-robots as a way of breaking down these biofilms.
The new research proposes yet another novel biofilm-busting method: electricity. The study suggests a weak electric field can prevent bacteria from aggregating into biofilms, and break down a bacterial biofilm if it is already present on a wound. To do this, the researchers developed what they call a wireless electroceutical dressing (WED).
The dressing can self-generate one volt of electricity using an electrochemical reaction that is triggered when it comes into contact with body fluids in a wound. The electrical field is reportedly harmless to a patient but significant enough to break down a bacterial biofilm, and prevent it from reforming.
"This shows for the first time that bacterial biofilm can be disrupted by using an electroceutical dressing," explains Chandan Sen, one of the researchers working on the project. "This has implications across surgery as biofilm presence can lead to many complications in successful surgical outcomes. Such textile may be considered for serving as hospital fabric – a major source of hospital acquired infections"
Weak electrical stimulation has been shown in the past to be oddly effective in speeding up wound healing and some researchers are suggesting the possibility of developing something akin to an electronic Band-Aid to stick on wounds, kill bacteria and speed up the healing process.
Perhaps the most compelling outcome from these new investigations into the anti-bacterial properties of electricity is the fact that it is highly unlikely for bacteria to be able to develop a resistance to this kind of technique. The new wireless electroceutical dressing is currently being tested in human burn patients to better understand its efficacy in battling bacterial biofilm infections.
The new research was published in the journal Annals of Surgery.