Swedish researchers develop antibacterial wound dressing

The World Health Organization describes antibiotic-resistant bacteria as one of the greatest threats to global health

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a hydrogel material that prevents infections in wounds. The material works against all types of bacteria, the researchers claim, including antibiotic-resistant ones.

“After testing our new hydrogel on different types of bacteria, we observed a high level of effectiveness, including against those which have become resistant to antibiotics,” said Martin Andersson, research leader for the study and Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology.

Research and development of the material has been ongoing for many years at Martin Andersson’s group at Chalmers, and the results have now been published in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.

The main purpose of the studies so far has been to explore medical technology solutions to help reduce the use of systemic antibiotics. The active substance in the bactericidal material consists of antimicrobial peptides, small proteins which are found naturally in the immune system.

“With these types of peptides, there is a very low risk for bacteria to develop resistance against them, since they only affect the outermost membrane of the bacteria. That is perhaps the foremost reason why they are so interesting to work with,” said Martin Andersson.

Researchers have long tried to find ways to use these peptides in medical applications, but so far without much success. The problem is that they break down quickly when they come into contact with bodily fluids such as blood. The current study describes how the researchers managed to overcome the problem through the development of a nanostructured hydrogel, into which the peptides are permanently bound, creating a protective environment.

“The material is very promising. It is harmless to the body’s own cells and gentle on the skin. In our measurements, the protective effect of the hydrogel on the antimicrobial peptides is clear– the peptides degrade much slower when they are bound to it,” said Edvin Blomstrand, Doctoral Student at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, and one of the main authors of the article.

Foundational research into the antimicrobial peptide hydrogel has run in parallel with commercial development through a spin-off company, Amferia. The company was founded in 2018 by Martin Andersson together with Saba Atefyekta and Anand Kumar Rajasekharan. The material is currently developed as an antibacterial wound patch.

Before it can be used, however, clinical studies are needed, which are ongoing. A CE marking of the material is hoped to be completed in 2022. The wound patch version of the material is undergoing trials in veterinary care, for treating pets.

“Amferia has recently entered into a strategic partnership with Sweden’s largest distributor of premium medical & diagnostic devices to jointly launch these wound care products for the Swedish veterinary market during 2021,” Andersson said.