A smart catheter that senses the start of an infection and automatically releases an antibacterial substance is under development to combat the problem of catheter-related blood and urinary tract infections, according to a presentation at the American Chemical Societys 244th annual meeting and expo.
Dipankar Koley, PhD, who delivered the report, said smart catheter technology is under development for catheters inserted into both the blood vessels and the urinary tract.
“Urinary tract infections, as one example, are the most common source of institutionally acquired infections in both acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities,” said Koley, whose report focused on early developmental work on the technology, according to a news release. “Our smart catheter is being developed in response to that need.”
Koley and fellow researchers at the University of Michigan refer to the new device as an “electromodulated smart catheter.” He noted infection-fighting catheters already are available, and work by releasing antibiotic substances. These non-smart catheters release the substances continuously, however, and soon become depleted and lose their antibiotic effort.
The new smart catheter senses the start of an infection and only then releases its antibiotic substance, nitric oxide. In lab experiments, test catheters have continued to release nitric oxide over seven days, and Koley and his colleagues believe the span can be extended to weeks.
The smart catheter works by chemically sensing changes in the pH, or acid-base environment, around the catheter. Certain changes signal the critical point when bacteria have formed a sticky film on the catheter and have increased in number to the point where a health-jeopardizing infection begins. At that point, the catheter begins to release nitric oxide, which disrupts the bacterial films and stops the infection. It then switches off, preserving its reserves of nitric oxide-generating material.