Scientists are increasingly have to look for new ways to combat bacterial infections due to the rise in antibiotic resistance. Now, researchers at the University of Brighton have found drugs used to treat mood disorders are also potentially active against bacteria which cause common catheter infections.
The research, led by Dr Brian Jones, Reader in Molecular and Medical Microbiology and Deputy Head of the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Dr Jones and collaborators Dr Mark Sutton from Public Health England and Dr Khondaker Miraz Rhaman from King’s College London have been studying infections associated with urinary catheters which are used in their millions across the world every year. The bacterium Proteus mirabilis often causes catheter infections and forms crystalline biofilms on catheter surfaces that block urine flow and lead to potentially life-threatening complications.
Catheters are widely used for long-term bladder management in both the community and nursing homes but the care of individuals undergoing long-term catheterisation is frequently undermined by infections.
Dr Jones said: “The majority of patients undergoing long-term catheterisation are cared for outside the hospital environment where catheter blockage is often not noticed until more serious complications arise.
“A particular hazard of catheter blockage is the accumulation of infected urine in the bladder, which eventually results in upper urinary tract infection and the onset of potentially fatal complications including septicaemia.
“It has been estimated that 50 per cent of individuals undergoing long-term catheterisation will suffer from catheter blockage at some point during their care, with chronic blockage also a common problem.
“It is perhaps then unsurprising that blockage is also the cause of numerous emergency hospital referrals, and not only damages the health of patients but also places significant strain on healthcare resources.”
Dr Jones and his team conducted tests in laboratory models of the catheterised urinary tract and found that drugs normally used to treat mood and behaviour disorders showed the ability to inhibit formation of crystalline biofilms.
Dr Jonathan Nzakizwanayo, a member of Dr Jones’ research team at Brighton and co-author of the study, said “Our work so far suggests these drugs inhibit biofilm formation by blocking transporters in bacterial cells walls called ‘efflux pumps’ which we have previously found to be important in Proteus biofilm formation.”
Dr Jones said: “Although it is unlikely these drugs can be used directly to treat infection, they do point to a promising approach to control catheter blockage or biofilm formation on other medical devices.”