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Are Electric Bandages the Key to Fighting Biofilm Infections?

NOV 10, 2017 | KRISTI ROSA
Researchers from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have found a way to enable healing in infected burn wounds, prevent biofilm infections, and fight antibiotic resistance.

How? They have created bandages, that, when moistened with bodily fluids, become electrically active, and, in turn, disturb bacterial biofilm infection, which “represent a major wound complication,” according to the university’s official press release.

“Drug resistance in bacteria is a major threat, and antibiotic-resistant biofilm infections are estimated to account for at least 75% of bacterial infections in the United States,” study author Chandan Sen, PhD, director of Ohio State’s Center for Regenerative Medicine & Cell Based Therapies commented in the press release. Because of the growing problem of resistance in biofilms, discovering alternative strategies to fight these infections is imperative.

Therefore, the investigators turned towards electrochemistry. “This is the first pre-clinical long-term porcine study to recognize the potential of ‘electroceuticals’ as an effective platform technology to combat wound biofilm infection,” Dr. Sen said. However, this concept to battle these infections is not new—the idea that “weak electric fields” could be used to fight biofilm infection was, according to the press release, postulated as far back as 1992.

Likewise, this is not the first time that Dr. Sen has played with this notion. The new study builds off of information yielded by past research conducted by Dr. Sen regarding wireless electroceutical dressing, or WED, which used “ silver and zinc printed on fabric.” When wetted with bodily fluids, WED becomes electrically active “and can be used like any other disposable dressing.”

However, WED is different from other disposable dressings in that it relies on electrical principles, which means that "it's not subject to the mechanisms that may promote drug resistance,” according to Dr. Sen. Wireless electric dressing has already been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration, and it is already in clinical use. This makes it all the more important to better understand “how this novel dressing may influence microbial, host, and host-microbe interactions,” which will, in turn, help investigators better determine the technology’s optimal use.

The investigators took a closer look at wound infections in pigs for the new study, applying WED within 2 hours of infection to gauge how effective the dressing was in preventing biofilm formation. The investigators also wanted to see if WED would be effective in disturbing biofilm that had already formed, and so, they applied WED 7 days after infection as well. Two times a week for the duration of 56 days, wounds were either treated with WED dressing or placebo. The results were positive.

“Our study showed that WED may be viewed as a first generation electroceutical wound care dressing, and it also accelerated functional wound closure by restoring skin barrier function, Dr. Sen said in the press release. “Both from bacterial biofilm structure as well as host response perspectives, WED was consistently effective. No batteries or wires are needed because we harness the power of electrochemistry.”

The work doesn’t end there. Within the next month, researchers from Ohio State will be collaborating with the burn care team within the Department of Defense to conduct a clinical trial to see how effective the technology is when it comes to burn wounds suffered by humans. Contagion® will report on the results of that study once they become available.
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