It may sound like something out of science fiction, using electrical fields to combat antibiotic-resistance bacteria. But for Indiana University School of Medicine professor of surgery Sashwati Roy, PhD it’s a reality.
Roy was recently awarded project funding for $200,000 in partnership with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), and the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC) to conduct preclinical testing of optimized electroceutical dressing technology or EDT.
“I’m very excited. This is a new approach to manage infection,” Roy said. “This is different than what we medical professionals have done in the past, which is inventing new antibiotics until the bacteria become resistant and then inventing another one. Infection is tough to treat this way.”
Roy said that chronic wounds are particularly vulnerable to infection because bacteria, which at times are free floating within an injury, can create colonies covered by a thick, sticky coating called biofilm. The immune system cannot penetrate the biofilm, and antibiotics are also blocked, causing patients to suffer or have a lower quality of life.
The funding will allow Roy’s team to evaluate the effectiveness of EDT dressings as compared to the current standard of care for infected wounds, with the eventual goal of advancing these preclinical evaluations to FDA evaluation and clinical testing.
Roy said that her team has already created the first generation of EDT, which is made of a silk material lined with dots of silver and zinc in the fabric. When the dressing comes into contact with bodily fluids, it generates a weak electric field without any external power supply. Recently, she and her collaborators have created a new prototype that includes a 6-volt button battery similar to the ones used in hearing aids that would deliver a continuous, safe, low-level electrical current to the injury in the hopes of disrupting bacteria creating a biofilm.
“We have to show the Federal Drug Administration that dressings are safe, so the whole point of this proposal is for us to generate enough data for to satisfied them and be allowed to take this new product to patients,” Roy said.”
The funding creates an opportunity for IU School of Medicine and supporting teams to work together to achieve a common goal. Roy said collaboration is crucial on interdisciplinary projects like this. Several different teams, from an engineering team creating a safe electrical system, to clinical staff who test safety and effectiveness, to staff who show the product has been safely tested, must come together before a working prototype can be created.
The exposure to injuries and subsequent risk of infection, particularly from the dangers posed by drug-resistant infections, faced by service members, made Roy’s research appeal to the MTEC and USAMRMC. According to Roy, electroceutical EDT dressings could eliminate mixed species, multi-drug resistant infections, significantly reducing the risk of infection, shortening recovery time, and improving recovery results for injured service members.
“MTEC is honored to support IU School of Medicine’s critical work to prevent and treat wound infections through EDT dressings,” said Lester Martinez, MD, MPH, and retired Major General, U.S. Army, President and Chairman of MTEC Board. “Their efforts could significantly improve the safety and recovery outcomes for America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.”