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A Life Without Infection

Science has changed the way we live. Antibiotics, vaccines etc., all these breakthrough discoveries have increased our life expectancy, but we have still not mastered our art with those little microorganisms called bacteria. Today, a single celled bacterium can cause several diseases including tuberculosis, which caused lots of deaths throughout history, and salmonellosis, a common disease which is rarely life-threatening, and most people recover without any treatment. Most diseases caused by bacteria are treatable because of antibiotics, but those little bacteria species have a strong sense of survival and every second, they are evolving to defend themselves against our only weapon, antibiotics, due to overuse and/or misuse of antibiotics. There are already antibiotic resistant bacteria species. (You can find more information about antibiotic resistance on WHO’s website here ).

Furthermore, patients in the hospitals have a risk of getting an infectious disease and the results can range from a financial burden to fatality. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reports that more than 80 000 patients have a health-care associated infections every day in European acute care hospitals (more can be found here ).  It is also important to note that not every infectious disease is caused by bacteria, however bacterial infection is the most common.

Researchers need to find an alternative way to prevent infections to reduce antibiotic usag and one way to reduce the number of patients with bacterial infection is to prevent bacterial growth particularly in hospitals and it is exactly what we are dealing with in this part of the ViBrANT project. We want to modify the surface of the materials in a way where bacteria are not able to adhere. Many of you might imagine that a noncontiguous surface could prevent the risk of having infectious diseases in the hospitals but there is more to this story. If a bacterium adheres on a surface, it protects itself by creating a biofilm which works as a shield against any hostilities during its colonization process and one can say that it is easier to fight against one bacterium compared to a colony of bacteria. It is also not hard to claim that a reduced amount of bacteria will reduce the chance of having an bacterial infection. So, the question might be:

The Illustration of Biofilm Cycle (Source: ZMESCIENCE)

Why hasn’t any material been modified yet for this purpose if it can reduce the infection risk?

First of all, there are already studies done on the topic and some materials have already been improved however it is not fully understood what drives bacteria to adhere onto a surface or what parameters would prevent it. Although, there are some theories, they do not answer all questions regarding how it works and not every bacterium follows the same rules. Therefore, it is not easy to modify the surface accordingly. Secondly, modifying a surface of a material is not so easy. Especially polymers which create a big problem as they are not so reactive, thus, it can be  a problem to modify the surface of a polymer sample even though we know that it will work. Therefore, we want to overcome these challenges and modify a polymer sample with anti-adhesive properties and provide a less risky environment for patients and we also aim to use the modified material for the diagnostic tools since it can increase the efficiency of those tools and reduce misleading results caused from those devices. 

Lastly, I wish you all an infection-free life!

Tugce Caykara

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