Antimicrobial Coating Prevents Infections Around Ortho Implants


An antibiotic delivery method was developed by a team at Duke University to make the surfaces of orthopedic implants resistant to bacterial infiltration.

The procedure entails spraying or painting a mixture of hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers onto the implant’s surface, along with an antibiotic of choice. The coating is then cured in place with UV light. The antibiotic is subsequently released by the coating over a period of 2-3 weeks, reducing the risk of infection.

Existing orthopedic implants may get infected, resulting in patient morbidity and the need for revision surgery. With limited blood flow to transport antibiotics to the location, the metal surface of most implants creates an excellent environment for bacteria development.

This can be a major problem for fragile patients. Children with bone cancer, for example, frequently require bone resection and implant insertion, but their chemotherapy treatment is typically immunosuppressive, putting them at considerable risk of implant infection.

“These youngsters must choose between chemotherapy and saving their limbs, or potentially needing amputations to survive, which sounds horrifying to me,” said Tatiana Segura, a study researcher. “All patients actually need is something to rub on the implant to avoid infection, because preventing infection is far easier than treating it. So we developed this coating technology in the hopes of finding a solution.”

A mixture of hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers make up the system. A doctor can combine an antibiotic of their choice with the polymers and apply it to the implant shortly before surgery, triggering a chemical reaction that immobilizes the medicine on the implant surface with UV light. The antibiotic might be selected based on the treatment region or knowledge of the bacteria present. The procedure is particularly versatile because the mixture can be applied by spraying, painting, or dipping.

“Our coating can be customized because it can be used with nearly any antibiotic,” Segura explained. “The antibiotic can be chosen by the doctor based on where the device is being implanted in the body and what infections are common in the area where the procedure is being performed.”

Intriguingly, the new method has been tested in mice, with results showing a 100 percent reduction in implant-related illnesses.

“We’ve demonstrated that a point-of-care, antibiotic-releasing coating protects implants from bacterial challenge and can be placed swiftly and safely in the operating room without requiring current implants to be modified,” said Christopher Hart, another study participant.

Point-of-care antimicrobial coating protects orthopaedic implants from bacterial challenge, according to a study published in Nature Communications.

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