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News

Millions could be relieved by crystal-free catheters

Society For General Microbiology : 09 February, 2005  (Company News)
Investigations into the bacteria that infest urinary catheters could relieve millions of patients each year from the discomfort of recurrent infection, according to an article in the February 2005 issue of Microbiology Today, the quarterly magazine of the Society for General Microbiology.
Investigations into the bacteria that infest urinary catheters could relieve millions of patients each year from the discomfort of recurrent infection, according to an article in the February 2005 issue of Microbiology Today, the quarterly magazine of the Society for General Microbiology.

Around 100 million catheters are used each year to provide a convenient way to drain urine from the bladder of many elderly or disabled patients. Unfortunately, they provide an ideal surface for a community of different bacteria to grow in the form of a biofilm.

The problem seems to be one bacterium in particular, Proteus mirabilis, which causes salt crystals to form in the urine and the biofilm. The crystals quickly build up, encrusting the catheter and blocking the flow of urine.

Researchers at the Cardiff School of Biosciences are trying to understand how these biofilms are formed in order to design better catheters.

'The microbes in catheter biofilms are mixed communities containing many species and our research is looking for factors produced by other bacteria that can inhibit crystalline biofilm formation by Proteus mirabilis,' explains Dr David Stickler.

Even with meticulous nursing care, all patients undergoing catheterisation for longer than a month will develop urinary infections. 'Preventing P. mirabilis from forming crystalline biofilms is essential, if we are to improve the health and quality of life of so many individuals,' says Dr Stickler.

Scientists are only just beginning to unravel the complexities of the interactions between micro-organisms living together and this issue of Microbiology Today focuses on microbial communities.
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