James Cook University scientists have discovered a technique to apply natural plant extracts such as Tea Tree Oil as a coating for medical devices, a process which could prevent millions of infections every year. Professor Mohan Jacob, Head of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at JCU, leads a team investigating the problem. He said an increasing number of unplanned surgeries are being performed to fight infections – mostly caused by bacterial activity on medical devices and a subsequent ‘biofilm’ forming on them. “Just in the US, about 17 million new biofilm-related infections are reported annually, leading to approximately 550,000 fatalities each year. It’s thought about 80% of worldwide surgery-associated infections may relate to biofilm formation,” he said. Professor Jacob said the team converted plant-based products – known as Plant Secondary Metabolites (PSMs) – into polymer coatings for medical devices, including implants.
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