Campus News

UGA researchers battle antibiotic-resistant bacteria

UGA researchers will use a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create next-­generation medical device coatings that combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The CDC will award more than $14 million to 34 research teams across the nation to develop new approaches to combat antibiotic resistance. College of Engineering faculty members Hitesh Handa and Jason Locklin will receive $266,000 for their one-year project.

The UGA researchers plan to develop a coating for intravascular catheters that inhibits infection by releasing nitric oxide, an endogenous gas molecule, while employing a durable, special polymer coating to prevent bacteria and other organisms from sticking to the catheter surface.

The CDC estimates up to one-third of all indwelling catheters become ­infected, resulting in as many as 28,000 deaths per year. Catheters with antibiotic coatings are available but they have not proven completely effective at preventing infection. In addition, bacteria are developing resistance to many antibiotics.

Handa, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering, believes nitric oxide, a gas known as a potent antimicrobial agent among its many other biological roles, is a promising alternative to antibiotics in medical device applications.

“Our lab has been developing new biomedical polymers that can mimic the nitric oxide release that occurs in our bodies, such as in sinus cavities and by neutrophils and macrophages, which act as a natural broad spectrum antimicrobial agent,” said Handa. “We are very excited about this CDC proposal which gives us an opportunity to combine our technology with Dr. Locklin’s polymeric coatings to produce a synergistic effect and ultimately create the next generation of antimicrobial catheters.”

In addition to fighting potential infections with nitric oxide, the UGA researchers said it’s important to inhibit bacteria and other organisms from adhering to catheters because their presence can trigger blood clotting and other complications.