For the first time, researchers say they have shown that “electric bandages” can fight biofilm infection and aid the fights against growing antimicrobial resistance.
They said the special bandages, which use weak electric fields to disrupt bacterial biofilm infection, could prevent infections, combat antibiotic resistance and enable healing in infected burn wounds.
“No batteries or wires are needed because we harness the power of electrochemistry”
The dressing becomes electrically active upon contact with bodily fluids, said the US researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
They noted that bacterial biofilms represented a major wound complication and the resistance of biofilm towards drug interventions called for alternative strategies to be developed.
Their approach is based on the fact that bacteria rely on electrostatic interactions to adhere to surfaces, an important aspect of biofilm formation.
The idea that weak electric fields may have anti-biofilm property was first seen in 1992 and followed in 2014 by research using a wireless electroceutical dressing (WED) with silver and zinc printed on fabric.
When moistened, the dressing generates a weak electric field without any external power supply and can be used like any other disposable dressing.
During the new study in animals, a WED was applied within two hours of wound infection in pigs to test its ability to prevent biofilm formation.
In addition, a WED was applied after seven days of infection to study disruption of established biofilm. Wounds were treated with placebo dressing or WED twice a week for 56 days.
Scanning electron microscopy demonstrated that WED prevented and disrupted wound biofilm aggregates and WED also accelerated functional wound closure by restoring skin barrier function, said the researchers in the journal Annals of Surgery.
‘Electric’ bandages show promise in fighting biofilm infection
Lead study author Dr Chandan Sen said: “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 US.
“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,” he said.
“Our study shows 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,” he said.
He added: “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 product used in the study was the Procellera biolelectric antimicrobial wounds dressing, which is manufactured by Vomaris Innovations.
The dressing has been cleared for prescription human use in the US “for several years” and is being used in hospitals, clinics, and wound care and surgical centres around the country, said a company spokeswoman.
Referring to the study by Dr Sen and his team, she said: “They performed this study on pigs because they believed that bioelectricity may have an impact on biofilm.
“To test this hypothesis, they needed to inoculate wounds with biofilm forming bacteria in order to do a controlled comparative study in the presence of an intact immune system,” she said. ”This type of study would obviously not be possible in a human.”
She added that the product was currently pending CE Mark approval for Europe and the UK.