For the millions of people forced to rely on a plastic tube to eliminate their urine, developing an infection is nearly a 100 percent guarantee after just four weeks. But with the help of a little bubble-blowing, biomedical engineers hope to bring relief to urethras everywhere.
About half of the time, the interior of long-term urinary catheters become plagued by biofilms—structures formed by colonies of bacteria that are extremely difficult to kill. Once established, it is only a matter of time before the biofilm becomes a welcoming host for other, more dangerous bacteria or begins to choke urine drainage, causing leakage—or even trauma to the patient’s body.
Duke University engineers have developed a new urinary catheter design that can eliminate nearly all of the hard-to-kill biofilm from the catheter’s walls. Instead of focusing on expensive antibacterial coatings, the researchers use physical deformation to knock the infectious film from its moorings.