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Anti-Infection Compound Devised for Dental, Wound Care

Michele Barbour

Michele Barbour (Bhagesh Sachania, University of Bristol)

18 June 2015. A new formulation of a common antibacterial agent can protect against infections for weeks or months at a time, according to its developers at University of Bristol in the U.K. The team led by Bristol dental materials scientist Michele Barbour is developing Pertinax, an extended antimicrobial compound, and receiving this year’s £25,000 ($US 39,600) Venture Prize from the Armourers and Brasiers’ Company in London.

Barbour and colleagues in Bristol’s Oral Nanoscience lab are applying nanotechnology to improve the performance of antibacterial and antifungal agent used in dentistry. In developing Pertinax, the Bristol team started with chlorhexidine, a common topical antiseptic used to clean skin before injections or surgery, which does not promote antibiotic resistance. In dentistry, chlorhexidine is applied to prevent ventilator-associated and fungal infections.

Chlorhexidine, however, has a short effective working time, which requires repeated use. To extend its antimicrobial persistence, the researchers devised a compound of chlorhexidine and phosphate salts, which they broke down into nanoscale particles — 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter — and formulated in a topical solution.

Tests of the compound Barbour and colleagues call Pertinax show the nanoparticles bind quickly to glass, titanium, and elastic polymers used in wound dressings, and remained on the materials for as long as 50 days. In addition, the researchers found the solution effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, stubborn and dangerous bacteria found in health care settings.

Barbour’s lab Web site notes Pertinax is the subject of two patent applications, and the university says Barbour founded a spin-off company, also called Pertinax, to commercialize the technology. Pertinax is the recipient of this year’s Materials Science Venture Prize from Armourers and Brasiers’ Company in London, awarded as an incentive to commercialize materials science research. The company — officially known as The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers — traces its heritage back to the 14th century Guild of St. George of the Armourers.

“Our initial focus will be in the dental market,” says Barbour in a university statement. “Research shows there is a clear need for long-acting antimicrobial products used in fillings and cements for crowns, bridges and orthodontic braces which will treat and prevent persistent bacterial infections over a much longer time frame than is currently possible.”

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