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Nanoparticles to help tackle hospital-acquired infections

Silver nanoparticles. 3D illustration. Biotechnological and scientific backgroundNew research has suggested the use of nanoparticles to prevent hospital-acquired infections resulting from medical equipment. 

Research published in the American Chemical Society Applied Interfaces and Material indicates that nanoparticles can be utilised to detect the presence of life-threatening microbes on medical devices and then be used to remove them, thereby reducing the risk of infection. Microbes such as Candida albicans can pose a risk to the health of a patient if they accumulate upon medical devices implanted into the human body (i.e. stents, catheters), given that the patient is liable to be gravely sick or immunocompromised. 

“The mortality rate in some patient populations can be as high as thirty to forty percent even if you treat people,” said Professor Ana Traven of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, who jointly led the research with Dr Simon Corrie of Monash University’s Department of Chemical Engineering. “When it [Candida albicans] colonises, it’s highly resistant to antifungal treatments. The idea is that if you can diagnose this infection early, then you can have a much bigger chance of treating it successfully with current antifungal drugs and stopping a full-blown systemic infection, but our current diagnostic methods are lacking. A biosensor to detect early stages of colonisation would be highly beneficial.”

The nanoparticles’ value is that they “can be made to be interactive with cells of interest.” According to Corrie, “we can actually change the surface properties by attaching different things; thereby we can really change the interactions they have with these cells — that’s quite significant.” The nanoparticles “don’t kill the microbe”, noted Traven, “but we can make an antifungal particle by binding them to a known antifungal drug.” 

Hospital-acquired infections are a substantial public health threat in India. As previously noted by Health Issues India, “hospitals, by nature of their function, are hotbeds of infectious disease.” In India, such infections occur at a rate of one for every four hospital visits. Any innovations to address the contraction of hospital-acquired infections are welcome, especially pertaining to medical devices given that the majority of hospital-acquired infections originate due to contamination of medical devices per past research. The innovative use of nanoparticles could be one means of addressing the problem.

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