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Published on 5 March 2020

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Researchers develop new coating to reduce pain and risk of infection for catheter users

Researchers from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a new antimicrobial coating which can be applied to urinary catheters and other medical devices to significantly reduce pain and lower the risk of infection for its users.

This unique coating has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for the millions of catheter users worldwide.

The coating was created using a unique mix of polymers which ensures it is low friction to reduce the pain and discomfort of catheterisation, as well as containing antimicrobial properties which protects the user from harmful microbes that can cause disease and in some cases, even death.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast in collaboration with the University of Leeds have published their findings in ACS Applied Bio Materials.

UTIs associated with catheter use are one of the most common types of infection that affect people staying in hospital. This risk is particularly high if the catheter is left in place continuously (an indwelling catheter) with approximately 50% of all long-term catheterised patients experiencing recurrent episodes of catheter infections and blockages.

Dr Nicola Irwin, Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Materials Science and first author on the paper said: “Patients with poor control over their bladder function, for example those with urinary retention or drainage problems caused by neurological conditions such as spina bifida or spinal cord injuries may need catheterised up to eight times a day.

Insertion and removal of poorly lubricated catheters causes friction between the urethral walls and the device surface, which is not only extremely painful for the patient, but upon regular use can lead to damage and narrowing of the urethra, bleeding and infection.”

As well as being extremely painful, these low-level infections, over time, can cause antibiotic resistance in these users.

Professor Colin McCoy, Chair in Biomaterials Chemistry and co-author of the research explains: “People who use medical devices such as catheters on a daily basis are at high risk of persistent low-level infections, which, overtime, can cause antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is one the biggest global threats to society today and leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased risk of infection and even death.

It is vitally important we provide an alternative to the currently used devices, which have not changed much since their introduction almost 100 years ago despite their widespread clinical and many associated limitations.”



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