MANCHESTER, England, September 9 /PRNewswire/ -- A new coating for urinary catheters could reduce the risk of infection, according to research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester.

The use of medical devices inserted into a patient's body is now routine in healthcare management within hospitals and nursing homes. Although there are substantial benefits associated with the use of such devices, there are very worryingly a number of potentially dangerous complications that may lead to an increase in the time patients remain in hospital and, more importantly, an increase in patient deaths.

Infection is a significant problem associated with urinary catheters (tubes which are inserted into the body to allow draining) - and affects about 10% of people.(1)

Infection risk is particularly high in patients who need these thin plastic tubes inserted in the bladder for a long period. Bacterial crusts can form on the tubes, causing discomfort for the patient when they are removed. There is, therefore, an urgent need to improve device-related infection.

The device coatings being developed at Queen's University in Belfast self-cleanse the catheter once it has become infected with bacteria. The new technique aims to minimise the likelihood of patients developing infection, thus reducing hospital stays, hospital readmissions and the need for surgical interventions. Ultimately, this would also minimise the loss of life.

A team of researchers from the university's School of Pharmacy have identified materials that can deliver drugs to the source of infection, known to be on the device surface, in a controlled way. One of the major advantages of this new technology is that it allows much higher drug concentrations at the infection site, in comparison to conventional routes of drug therapy. Although this is highly likely to prevent patients from developing infections, there is a safeguard designed into these new materials that will initiate should this prevention mechanism fail.

Principal investigator, Dr Gavin Andrews of Queen's University, said: ''We have identified coatings that will self-cleanse once they have become infected with bacteria. This should enable the device, and ultimately the patients, to remain free from infection during usage. The results obtained thus far are preliminary and more research is required to ensure these materials meet clinical demands."

Notes to editors:

The British Pharmaceutical Conference 2008 (BPC)

BPC 2008: Pharmacy in the 21st Century: Adding years to life and life to years. In 2008, as the NHS marks its 60th anniversary year, BPC will examine how pharmacy and the pharmaceutical services are helping to add years to life and life to the year of the UK population. The profession of pharmacy plays an important role in meeting the healthcare challenges associated with the UK's ageing population.

How can pharmacists contribute to caring for the population as well as ensuring quality of life? Increasingly, scientists and practitioners have to consider the cost implications of this conundrum, and the evidence base for all interventions is becoming of paramount importance: BPC 2008 will debate these issues and open up discussion on them. Visit:

The main sponsors of BPC 2008 are: Boots The Chemists (Lead Sponsor), AstraZeneca (Associate Sponsor and BPC-PJ Careers Forum Platinum Sponsor), Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) (Associate Sponsor) and GSK (BPC-PJ Careers Forum Platinum Sponsor).

The RPSGB The Handling of Medicines in Social Care guidelines were prepared in consultation with stakeholders including the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the Healthcare Commission, National Children's Bureau and several homecare bodies.

Research released at BPC is published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology (JPP).


1) NHS Direct website. Accessed 14 August 2008.

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