Techno Trends

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Antimicrobial Hydrogel

Drug-resistant superbugs continue to be a problem in hospitals, despite advances in sterilization methods and aseptic technique. According to recent estimates, hospital-acquired infections account for up to $11 billion in health care costs annually, and are among the top five leading causes of death in the U.S.

One group of disease cells called microbial biofilms occurs in 80 percent of infections. They’re able to colonize on virtually any surface, making them particularly difficult to eradicate by conventional means. But a new hydrogel has been developed that can break through the biofilms and kill the bacteria on contact.

The synthetic polymer is water soluble, biodegradable, biocompatible and non-toxic. When heated to body temperature, the polymers self-assemble into a gel with a positive charge that attracts negatively charged microbes, then kills them through a process of membrane disruption, eliminating any possibility of developing resistance. It works for many common bacteria (such as MRSA and e. coli) as well as yeast and fungus infections.

For information: James Hedrick, IBM Research-Almaden, 650 Harry Road, San Jose, CA 95120; phone: 408-927-1080; Web site;

Daniel Burrus' Top Twenty Technology-Driven Trends for 2013