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Researchers develop early warning system for urinary catheter infections

New system could reduce the routine use of antibiotics for patients with a urinary catheter

Researchers have developed an early warning system for urinary catheter infections which it is hoped will protect patients from the the severe effects of infection as well as reducing the need for the routine prescription of antibiotics.

The early warning system for urinary catheter infections would mean only patients with an infection would need to be given antibiotics

A team at the University of Bath produced a two-layer chemical coating which can be applied to catheter tips.

Bacterial infections convert urea in the urine into ammonia, which raises the pH of the urine.

The first layer of the coating dissolves when the pH levels rise and the urine becomes alkaline.

This exposes the bottom layer which contains a non-toxic dye, which is released into the urine drainage bag turning it an unnatural bright yellow colour.

The researchers have shown that the dye is released about 12 hours before a catheter would become blocked by the bacterial infection.

Healthcare professionals could therefore be alerted to the infection and be able to change the catheter and treat the infection before it causes serious problems such as kidney failure.

Lead researcher Toby Jenkins said catheter infections are such a common problem that anyone using a catheter for more than seven days is given a course of antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

He said this system would mean only patients with an infection would need to be given antibiotics.

He added: ‘This system could therefore not only save lives but also reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance.’

The research, published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, is available here.

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