NIH Studied Biofilms That Form in Stents and Catheters

P. aeruginosa (green) formed a green biofilm on the walls; a second bacteria (red) got caught in the resulting matrix, forming biofilm streamers. Image source: Knut Drescher/NIH

P. aeruginosa (green) formed a green biofilm on the walls; a second bacteria (red) got caught in the resulting matrix, forming biofilm streamers. Image source: Knut Drescher/NIH

The growth of a bacterial biofilm within stents and catheters can clog the devices and cause dangerous complications. Bacteria in these biofilms are also resistant to antibiotics.  The National Institutes of Health conducted a study to identify ways to prevent these bacterial colonies from forming, which is of interest to those in vascular medicine who place stents and aim to maintain their patency.

The research team placed the bacterium P aeruginosa, which forms biofilms in soil, rivers and sewage, as well as on medical devices, in a special tube with multiple bends that mimicked real-life conditions. Results published in the March 12, 2013, issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that P aeruginosa grew quickly, accumulating on the walls of the tube within about 40 hours. The buildup of this biofilm, however, didn’t greatly affect flow through the tube. The researchers then added a second bacteria that became attached to the molecular matrix shed by the P aeruginosa, creating biofilm streamers that clogged the tube in as little as 30 minutes. Biofilm streamers also formed on bare-metal stents within 12 hours, spanning the gaps in the wire mesh. These results suggest that biofilm streamers are common in nature and can block flow in a wide variety of industrial and medical settings.

These results could benefit the practice of vascular specialists, if the activity of these biofilms is better understood and the results lead to development of vascular devices that can resist the formation of biofilms.

Related information: New CDC Guidelines for Prevention of Intravascular Catheter-Associated Infections

 

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