Patient deaths from infections could be reduced by a new coating for urinary catheters, according to research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester.
The use of these tubes is now routine in healthcare management, and infection is a significant problem that affects about 10% of patients.
A number of potentially dangerous complications may lead to an increase in patient deaths as well as the time they are forced to remain in hospital.
The risk is particularly high in those who need catheters inserted in the bladder for a long period. Bacterial crusts can form on the tubes, causing discomfort for the patient when they are removed.
Device coatings being developed at Queen's University in Belfast self-cleanse the catheter once it has become infected with bacteria.
Researchers from the university's School of Pharmacy have identified materials that can deliver drugs to the source of infection, known to be on the device surface, in a controlled way.
One of the major advantages is that it allows much higher drug concentrations at the infection site compared with conventional routes of drug therapy. A safeguard designed into these new materials will initiate should this prevention mechanism fail.