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Catheter Innovation Destroys Dangerous Biofilms

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For the millions of people forced to rely on a plastic tube to eliminate their urine, developing an infection is nearly a 100 percent guarantee after just four weeks. But with the help of a little bubble-blowing, biomedical engineers hope to bring relief to urethras everywhere.

About half of the time, the interior of long-term urinary catheters become plagued by biofilms—structures formed by colonies of bacteria that are extremely difficult to kill. Once established, it is only a matter of time before the biofilm becomes a welcoming host for other, more dangerous bacteria or begins to choke urine drainage, causing leakage—or even trauma to the patient’s body.

Duke University engineers have developed a new urinary catheter design that can eliminate nearly all of the hard-to-kill biofilm from the catheter’s walls. Instead of focusing on expensive antibacterial coatings, the researchers use physical deformation to knock the infectious film from its moorings.

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