Natural plant essential oils fight infections on medical devices

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In Australia, James Cook University scientists discovered a technique to apply natural plant extracts such as Tea Tree Oil as a coating for medical devices, a process which could prevent millions of infections every year.

Professor Mohan Jacob, Head of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at JCU, leads a team investigating the medical device infection problem. He said an increasing number of unplanned surgeries are performed to fight infections – mostly caused by bacterial activity on medical devices and a subsequent ‘biofilm’ forming on them. “Just in the US, about 17 million new biofilm-related infections are reported annually, leading to approximately 550,000 fatalities each year. It’s thought about 80 percent of worldwide surgery-associated infections may relate to biofilm formation,” he said.

The research tackled the problem of how to convert the plant extracts from a liquid to a solid state as a coating for medical devices, without a significant loss of effectiveness.