May 212010

Plastic Stops Bacterial Growth

Everyone knows that when certain bacteria are present in an environment, they can cause infections. These infections can take the form of diseases such as bubonic plague, cholera, leprosy, and tuberculosis. The problem isn’t simply that the bacteria are present, however, it’s that they communicate with one another – essentially coming up with a battle plan. This signaling process, called quorum sensing, has now successfully been blocked by British scientists. They did it using plastics similar those used by dentists for repairing teeth.

The scientists, from Cranfield University, Bedford Hospital and the University of Kent, computer-designed a special type of synthetic polymer. This chemically-inert plastic has the ability to absorb the signal molecules that bacteria use for quorum sensing. The result – the bacteria may still be there, but they’re inactive. It is suggested that the signal sequestering polymers (SSP’s) could be used in catheters, IV’s, prosthetics, and other applications where the accumulation of bacteria is a problem.

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