The vibrating catheter that shakes off bugs
A new device that uses soundwaves to ‘shake’ away bacteria could protect thousands of hospital patients from painful and potentially life-threatening bladder infections.
The innovation will offer hope to the 90,000 Britons who each year are fitted with a urinary catheter – a tube inserted into the urethra that drains urine from the bladder into a bag outside of the body – and is worn long-term.
Catheters are essential for a wide range of conditions that compromise the ability to empty the bladder effectively, such as prostate cancer patients, and those with incontinence and neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and spinal injury.
However, the tube provides a direct route for external bacteria to get into the bladder and multiply, leading to the formation of a thick, bacterial ‘glue’ called biofilm which sticks to the surface of the catheter plastic.
Biofilm is highly resistant to antibiotics, making infections difficult to treat.
Although more than a million patients a year are given a catheter for a short time while in hospital, those using them at home for longer periods have them changed every three months and infections can be missed between changes.
An untreated urinary tract infection (UTI) may spread to the kidney, causing more pain and illness, and lead to sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection.
Catheters result in 250,000 serious infections, 3,000 deaths and up to £500 million in healthcare costs each year, according to recent research.