St.Gallen researchers tackling hospital germs

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) and the Cantonal Hospital of St.Gallen are developing new biomedical materials. Its novel surfaces are designed to prevent the formation of biofilms, so the accumulations of germs on surfaces.

Empa researcher Qun Ren.
Empa researcher Qun Ren. Image credit: Empa

Biofilms can cause serious problems, especially in hospitals, Empa explained in a press release. It outlines that if patients are treated with invasive medical measures such as tubes being inserted into the body “the infectious agents quickly gain a hold”. Biofilms form when germs accumulate on surfaces. Researchers at Empa and the Cantonal Hospital of St.Gallen are therefore working on a project for novel biomedical materials with innovative surfaces that prevent germs accumulating in this way.

They will first be investigating how germ growth actually occurs. “A key event in the formation of a biofilm is the moment when mobile bacteria attach to a surface,” says Empa researcher Qun Ren in the press release. One approach is therefore to prevent the process of attachment. “We can only produce safe and highly efficient new materials that are resistant to bacterial biofilms if we know exactly what these microorganisms are capable of,” adds Qun Ren.

Researchers are using samples from the Cantonal Hospital in St.Gallen for their ongoing investigation and have so far identified a variety of pathogen groups. Empa explains that the “researchers will now investigate how these various ‘urotypes’ are associated with the risk of hospital infection”. They are also exploring “the possibility of modifying surfaces differently according to certain subsets of patients”. 

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