High rates of infection stemming from surgical implantation are causing device manufacturers to scramble for bacteria-fighting coatings and additives to incorporate in their products. Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC; Vancouver) have discovered that synthetic-form, short, tethered, cationic antimicrobial peptides have demonstrated efficacy at killing bacteria that come into contact with them. Naturally occurring peptides, or 'nature's antibiotics,' combat bacteria in humans and animals and are located in various cells and tissues. Mimicking these proteins, the researchers created the cationic peptides as soluble antibiotics for use in coating implants. The distinguishing characteristic of these peptides is that they are active when tethered to a surface, whereas some peptides that are successful antibiotics in solution are not effective when applied to a substrate, according to Robert Hancock, principal investigator and Canada Research chair in pathogenomics and antimicrobials at the UBC Department of Microbiology and Immunology. In recent years, the rise of the antibiotic-resistant 'Superbug' has made treatment of implant-associated infections increasingly difficult. The UBC researchers believe that applying short-tethered cationic antimicrobial peptides to implant surfaces could provide a nonantibiotic solution to inhibiting bacterial growth on devices. An in-depth explanation of the research appears in the January 30 issue of Chemistry and Biology.
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