Researchers have found electrical stimulation to be a new and effective alternative to antibiotics in treating wounds. This new approach eliminated all of a multi-drug-resistant bacterium that is often found in infections.
The team from Washington State University (WSU) in the US used an electrochemical scaffold or ‘e-scaffold’, on a slime-enclosed aggregate (biofilm) of highly multi-drug-resistant bacteria that is often implicated in difficult-to-treat infections. The e-scaffold killed nearly all the microbes in the biofilm within 24 hours, reducing their population size by 1/10,000 of the original infection.
Due to the rising problem of antibiotic resistance, there is an urgent need for alternatives to antibiotics. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year millions of people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria that lead to the death of thousands.
The idea of using electrical stimulation to treat infected wounds has been around for over 100 years, but experiments have been met with mixed results. Researchers at WSU discovered that applying electrical stimulation to biofilm reduces dissolved oxygen to hydrogen peroxide at the electrode surface. Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant that attacks various essential cell components in bacteria and other microbes.
The team then developed the e-scaffold made of conductive carbon fabric. Running electrical current through the device, which then acts as an electronic Band Aid, produces a low and constant concentration of hydrogen peroxide that kills bacteria.
Other attempts to develop scaffolds for wound dressing have been met with mixed results, with most losing potency over time. The e-scaffold appears to meet the need for continuous delivery of an antimicrobial effect at a constant concentration for a significant length of time.
The researchers have applied for a patent for the e-scaffold and plan to investigate its effects on other species of bacteria.