Researchers at the University of Lund in Sweden have developed a hydrogel that mimics the body's natural peptide defenses to prevent and treat infected wounds. The new treatment benefits from a double action that neutralizes bacteria and reduces inflammation.
Wound infections that result from diverse injuries such as burns or surgical intervention can increase the risk of systemic complications, such as sepsis, and be difficult to treat due to antimicrobial resistance which is increasingly prevalent worldwide, point out the scientists who developed the new gel.
"The ability to effectively heal wounds is key for our survival in evolutionary terms. There are peptides in wounds that defend against bacteria and prevent their toxins from causing inflammation. The gel is based on these natural defense mechanisms and has had a dual effect -- by both preventing as well as treating wound infections," explains Artur Schmidtchen, a professor of dermatology and venereology at the University of Lund, who participated in the research.
An alternative to antibiotics
The authors of the study, which has been published in Science Translational Medicine, insist on the need to find alternatives to treatment with antibiotics, which are too often administered and only partially effective. "Antibiotics and antiseptics kill the bacteria but do not affect the subsequent harmful inflammatory process. Another problem is that the active substances in today's antiseptic wound treatments often are toxic and harmful to the environment. We have not seen this with our active substance, and it also kills multi-resistant bacteria," points out Professor Schmidtchen.
In addition to its antibacterial properties, the gel developed by the team of scientists reduces inflammatory response within 24 hours of treatment. "We have designed a whole new type of treatment that uses nature's own principles by not only killing bacteria but also acting as an immune-modulator," confirms Manoj Puthia, a researcher at Lund University and the lead author of the study.
The next step for the scientists is to have the gel approved for use in clinical studies involving burn patients. "We will also look into the possibility of developing new peptide-based drugs for eye infections and infections in other internal organs. It could become a new way of treating both infection and inflammation without using antibiotics," points out Artur Schmidtchen.