In the US alone, hospital-acquired infection accounts more for than 99,000 deaths per annum (Preventing Health-Care Associated Infection, CDC). The human body regulates the number of microbes in and on the body, which are mostly beneficial. When an implantable device is placed in the body, the body cannot control the surface of the material, enabling for proliferation of bacteria-producing factories (called biofilms) that leads to infection. Antibiotics are co-administered with implantable devices to combat infection; however, their over use kills many of the beneficial microbes and gives rise to antibiotic-resistant microbes also known as superbugs.
When implantable devices are coated with the Hydrophilix coating, a thin hydration layer prevents pathogens from adhering to the device surface and proliferating into biofilms. Because the coating does not kill microbes, the creation of superbugs is avoided.
The effect of the Hydrophilix coating is demonstrated above. Several strains of virulent microorganisms are incubated directly on samples of silicone rubber without (top) and with (bottom) the Hydrophilix coating. The microorganisms adhere well and grow on the bare silicone surface. The Hydrophilix surface prevents adhesion and growth with a barrier of hydration on the surface. The right image demonstrates how differently a droplet of water interacts with the bare silicone surface vs. the Hydrophilix surface. The hydrophobic silicone causes the water droplet to bead up. The hydrophilic nature of the coated silicone surface (right) causes the drops to flatten out like a pancake.