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About Using Medical Polymers Reduce Hospital-Acquired Infections


Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) affect millions of people around the world and cost healthcare systems billions. Whether the cause is reduced staffing in hospitals (resulting in less time for healthcare workers to thoroughly disinfect between patient visits), the increasing resistance of certain pathogens to current sterilization procedures, or any of a dozen other reasons, this problem continues to affect patients needing healthcare.


Catheter Acquired Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs) are the single largest cause of hospital acquired infections today. This is because it is common for bacteria biofilms to form on the catheter surface, leading to damage, inflammation and infection via the adjacent tissues. Biofilms are thin layers of microorganisms, usually protozoa and bacteria, which colonise exposed surfaces of medical devices.


Antibacterial coatings, whether silver or antibiotic impregnated, are intended to kill the biofilms once they have formed, minimising damage to exposed tissue. In practice, however, this approach is ineffective at preventing the growth of bacterial biofilms - existing coated catheters on the market have not reduced CAUTIs


Using Polymers to Reduce Infections


The use of plastic medical devices helps caregivers to control the HAI problem because of features like : cleanliness, sterility, convenience, ease of use, and low cost. There is a need to do more in controlling and reducing infections, and one way to help improve outcomes is through the use of antimicrobial plastics in the construction of various medical devices. Rather than aiming to kill bacteria, researchers looked to better protect against HAIs by changing the physical properties of surfaces to make them inhospitable to bacteria.


Polymers and, more specifically, the proper selection of such materials for manufacturing of medical devices, will continue to be a factor in helping control hospital-acquired infections, and provide better patient safety, improved healthcare, and reduced operating costs.


Whether the improvement comes from surface-bound or released antimicrobials in medical device plastics; from the use of more resistant polymers; or from better design that allows more effective cleaning and longer useful life of the plastic products, the improved outcomes will be a welcome trend in reduction in the frequency of HAIs.


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