We know that hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a growing problem within healthcare facilities. And with reform measures cutting reimbursement for high rates of infection and readmissions (PDF), they’re now even more of a problem for hospitals.
Rather than battling to create new drugs for these bacteria, some healthcare companies are operating by the old adage that prevention is key and are attempting to prevent infections in the first place.
An estimated 1.7 million nosocomial infections are diagnosed each year in the U.S., one-third of which are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a market report from the Freedonia Group forecasts that the demand for infection prevention products will rise through 2015. Here are some of the strategies that medical devices have come up:
Investing in technologies that sterilize large areas at once is “a paradigm shift for hospitals,” according to Carl Ricciardi, the CEO of AltaPure, which markets a machine that converts common liquid disinfectants into a fog that can sanitize rooms within minutes.
Large-scale methods can help ensure that all surfaces in a room are sterilized. While AltaPure uses ultrasound technology for its device and Medizone’s AscepticSure uses ozone-based gas, other techniques use ultraviolet light and heat to kill drug-resistant microorganisms.
As they have in the cancer market, vaccines have become a huge target for institutions and companies looking toward the hospital-acquired infection market. Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently discovered a vaccine that could prevent the infection Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Pa), which can cause lung infections in immunocompromised patients. University of Rochester researchers developed a vaccine for MRSA, and vaccines for Staphylococcus aureus are also under development by the Florida company Nabi Corp and North Dakota company NovaDigm Therapeutics. Big pharmaceuticals are eying this market too: Sanofi Pasteur has vaccines for C. difficile, Staph and Pa infections in its pipeline. Merck was leading the race toward a staph vaccine but ended a clinical trial early last summer over safety concerns.
Compared to other methods, antimicrobial coverings are a relatively simple and inexpensive contribution to preventing the spread of bacteria. Antimicrobial computer keyboards, mice and device coverings are relatively cheap, and lots of companies are making them. Those include SealSheild, which sells waterproof keyboards and mice that can be washed in a dishwasher, and Harland Medical Systems, which specializes in antimicrobial coatings for medical devices.
A company called GestSure Technologies is going even further to prevent surgical site infections by developing an application of Microsoft’s Kinect system that allows surgeons to manipulate medical images during surgery without having to touch scans or screens.
Urinary infections are the most common nosocomial infections and 80 percent of them are associated with the use of a catheter. Pursuit Vascular, based in Minnesota, is developing a device that elutes antimicrobial material into long-dwelling hemodialysis catheters. Pennsylvania company PSI Medical Catheter Care hasn’t been quite as public with its technology but says it is developing ways to improve how intravenous catheters are disinfected and protected from bacteria. Another company, UNC spinout NanoVan, is using a grant from the National Institutes of Health to apply its nitric oxide technology into antimicrobial catheter coatings.
Also Cook Medical has a Spectrum Central Venous Catheter impregnated with minocycline and rifampin, which have been shown to minimize the risk of bacterial colonization of the catheter and catheter-related bacteremia during use.
Antimicrobial wound care
Novan is also using grant funding to study its technology applied to an antimicrobial would dressing, a technique also being attempted by cold plasma firms Sterionics and Harmonics Cold Plasma. Cold plasma is thought to interfere with the DNA of bacteria and is being applied as a way to heal difficult-to-treat wounds quickly and without infection.