English researchers were able to make bacterial resistant medical parts with 3D printing. Ultimately, this can make it possible to create objects to fight infections in everyday life.
For years, 3D printing has revolutionized health. It improved facial reconstruction and opened up many new possibilities in the field of transplantation. Currently, British researchers are using it to combat infectious diseases. According to their study published in Nature magazine on 21 January, they have succeeded in developing printable 3D components that are resistant to bacteria.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield in England have added antimicrobial additives to objects during the manufacturing process to prevent the growth of microbes. In detail, they used a polyamide powder (PA12) in which they added an antibacterial compound based on silver. Using a 3D printer, the scientists then compared parts printed with conventional powder with other parts made from this mixture. They found out that parts containing the antimicrobial material were more resistant to bacteria. They are particularly effective against Gram-positive (Staphylococcus aureus) and Gram-negative (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) groups. These bacteria can lead to fatal diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia, and septicemia.
Additionally, the 3D printed pieces were not affected by the addition of the antibacterial compound and retained the same properties as the normal pieces and were not toxic to human cells. “The technical properties of the new composite are identical to those of the standard base material, polyamide 12”. The compound is most effective in hydrated nutrient-poor environments and under these conditions is able to reduce the number of bacteria surrounding it and the number of bacteria in the biofilm. The bacteria have difficulty adhering to the 3D printed parts according to the researchers.
Parts for hospitals or daily use
Ultimately, this technological advancement may make it possible to produce parts for hospitals that are subject to a lot of human contacts, for example, door handles. Oral health products, such as mouthpieces or everyday objects such as computer keyboards and mobile phones, can also be made with these materials.
According to Dr. Candice Majewski the project leader, Controlling the spread of harmful bacteria, infections and increasing resistance to antibiotics is a global concern. The introduction of antibacterial protection in products and devices at the time of manufacture could be an essential tool in this fight.
“Our interactions with microbes are complex and contradictory – they are essential for our survival and can also kill us. Technology like this will be the key to the sensible and sustainable management of this crucial relationship with nature,” concludes Dr. Bob Turner of the University’s Department of Computer Science.
The challenge of antibiotic resistance
These results are welcome at a time when bacteria are becoming increasingly powerful. At the beginning of January, the World Health Organization warned of the increasing antibiotic resistance of many pathogenic bacteria.
“This is one of the biggest health threats we have identified,” said Peter Beyer of the Essential Medicines Department of the WHO during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. “We are seeing the spread and we are running out of antibiotics that are effective against these resistant bacteria,” he explained.
“There are many initiatives underway to reduce resistance, but we also need countries and the pharmaceutical industry to become more involved and provide sustainable financing and new innovative medicines,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of WHO.
According to the CDC, there are more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections every year in the United States that result in the death of more than 35.000 people.