Reducing infections of bone implants for people with arthritis

Disease - Osteoarthritis, hip pain, joint replacement

Lead applicant - Dr Jason Mansell

Organisation - University of the West of England

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £146,810.34

Start date - 16 February 2019

Reference - 21895

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Infection is one of the risks of total joint replacement surgery. This research is aiming to develop a method of reducing this infection risk. A substance, inspired by the way edible mussels use to attach to rocks, will be applied to bone implant materials. This substance is able to act as a hook to attach antibiotics to the implant surface, therefore effectively killing the MRSA superbugs causing infection.

Why is this research important?

The socioeconomic impact of bone implant infections is huge, including the devastating effect of infection on those who have undergone surgery, combined with the millions of pounds it costs the NHS every year. Antibiotics are currently used liberally at the implant site to try and reduce infection risk, but lots of the medication is lost during the procedure. Therefore, this new method is needed to keep the antibiotics fixed to the surface, where they are needed most to reduce the risk of infection.

Work is needed to improve the coating during this project, and to show that it remains stable under a variety of conditions, including when in storage and sterilisation. The researchers will also look at whether the coating will remain intact during implantation, and ultimately in the body in the presence of bone cells and blood. They will also need to demonstrate that this coating can kill live bacteria so will be exposed to this in a laboratory setting.

How will the findings benefit people with arthritis?

Reducing infection risk would be of huge benefit to both patients and healthcare services. Patient confidence will increase in knowing that new, improved materials are available to reduce infection risk. Significant savings could be made to the NHS and other healthcare providers, meaning that funds can be effectively channelled elsewhere. There is also a clear potential transfer of this technology to dental and veterinary applications, leading to further impact.