Innovative technology reduces the rate of hospital-acquired urinary infections
It was a ‘eureka’ moment for CamStent founder David Hampton when he realised that a polymer, designed to prevent moss sticking to roofs, would have huge benefit in the medical industry to stop bacteria colonising urinary catheters. His invention has the potential to save the NHS £100 million, the cost of treating urinary infections.
Clare Twemlow, CFO at CamStent, explains: “Currently bacteria will attach to the surface of a catheter and then spread to form a ‘biofilm’ which can lead to infection. Our coating prevents this first step.”
CamStent’s patented polymer coatings are derived from a well-characterised class of organic compounds called resorcinarenes. The polymer prevents the formation of biofilms, which are thin layers of microorganisms, usually protozoa and bacteria, which aggregate on the surface of implanted medical devices. These biofilms directly irritate the surrounding tissue and release toxins that cause inflammation and infection.
Urinary infections such as E. coli account for around 40% of hospital-acquired infections and catheters are the main culprits. In the UK, these infections cost an estimated £100 million a year to treat, and they cause patients discomfort and longer hospital stays.
One in four hospital patients require a urinary catheter and over half of adults who have catheters fitted for over two weeks during a hospital stay will contract an infection. It’s also a major problem in care homes, where residents may have permanent catheters.
Clare says: “The current options for reducing infection rates include coating the catheter with silver alloy, but this only works for about a week. It is possible to use an antibiotic coating but, unlike our technology, this can lead to antibiotic resistant strains emerging, so it is very rarely used.
“The principle of our non-stick surface has a huge range of potential applications. There are other medical uses, for example on stents used to keep arteries open following heart surgery. Orthopaedic implants can also pose an infection risk, so there are opportunities for coating stainless steel.
“It’s not just bacteria we can prevent from sticking, but other organisms such as algae, which can be a huge problem fouling the inside of pipes or the hulls of ships. We’ve even been approached by scientists tracking dolphins – they don’t want biofilms to build up on their tracking device!”
The idea for CamStent came when David Hampton, now CEO, was studying at the Judge Business School. He attended a lecture by Professor Charles Stirling about a polymer he was developing for the construction industry, and David suddenly realised what a huge potential this had for the medical industry. To fulfil this potential they founded CamStent in 2007. CamStent will enter clinical trials next year and should have its technology on the market in 2 years.
Written by Rachel Holdsworth