U.K. team developing antibiotic delivery method to protect implants from infection

Scientists at the University of Sheffield are developing antibiotic delivery techniques to solve the problem of infected orthopedic joints, which can lead to deadly diseases like sepsis among bone implant patients.

"Microorganisms can attach themselves to implants or replacements during surgery and once they grab onto a non-living surface they are notoriously difficult to treat which causes a lot of problems and discomfort for the patient," said lead researcher Paul Hatton, professor of Biomaterials Sciences, in a university news release.

The team used nanotechnology to develop small polymer layers on the surface of implants that are more than 100 times narrower than the width of a hair.

"By making the actual surface of the hip replacement or dental implant inhospitable to these harmful microorganisms, the risk of deep bone infection is substantially reduced. Our research shows that applying small quantities of antibiotic to a surface between the polymer layers which make up each device could prevent not only the initial infection but secondary infection--it is like getting between the layers of an onion skin," Hatton said.

The research was funded by the European Commission and the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Prosthetic joint infections are a big problem. Only two-thirds of patients with a joint infection are alive after 5 years, said Dr. Javad Parvizi last year at an FDA meeting on the topic. That is lower than the survival rate from some types of cancer.

- read the news release