Tea tree oil may replace antibiotics in the fight against infections

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Web Desk: Researchers have used the antibacterial properties of tea tree oil to create a bioactive coating that keeps bacteria away from medical devices. The findings may help to stave off millions of infections per year.

Using special techniques, essential oils can now be turned into a hard, antibacterial surface that protects against infection.

The more we use antibiotics, the less effective they become, leading to the appearance of “superbugs” that are resilient to the drugs’ antibacterial properties.

Every year, as many as 2 millionpeople in the United States are infected with a drug-resistant bacterium, and most of these infections occur in hospitals.

Mohan Jacob, the head of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department at James Cook University (JCU) in Queensland, Australia, explains that a large number of these bacteria are found on the “biofilm” that forms on medical devices.

Biofilm infections are a growing health concern in their own right. “Just in the U.S., about 17 million new biofilm-related infections are reported annually, leading to approximately 550,000 fatalities each year,” Prof. Jacob says.

“It’s thought about 80 percent of worldwide surgery-associated infections may relate to biofilm formation,” he adds.

So, in the context of antibiotic resistance, is there a way to stop the bacterial biofilms from forming on medical devices without relying on antibiotics?

Researchers believe so. Plants naturally produce antimicrobial molecules, and in recent years, scientists have used nanotechnology to harness the power of these compounds to create antibacterial coatings.

The plant compounds are called plant secondary metabolites (PSMs) as they are not essential to a plant’s survival and functioning.

A central challenge to creating antibacterial coatings from PSMs, however, has been converting the compounds’ natural liquid state into a solid state without losing any of their antibacterial properties.

Now, a team of researchers led by Prof. Jacob found a way to turn PSMs into bioactive coatings for medical devices.

Their findings were published in the journal Polymers. Turning liquid tea tree oil into a solid coating

 

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