"Two to three percent of total joint replacements fail due to chronic bacterial biofilm infections. The only recourse for such patients is the traumatic removal of the implant which results in additional bone loss, extensive soft tissue destruction, months of forced bed rest with intravenous antibiotics and significant loss of quality of life due to complete loss of mobility, " says Garth Ehrlich of the Center for Genomic Sciences at the Allegheny Singer Research Institute in Pittsburgh, one of the organizers of the working group. Ehrlich presented the group's vision at the American Society for Microbiology's Conference on Bio- Micro- and Nanosystems.
Ehrlich and his colleagues envision an intelligent implant covered in microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMs)-based biosensors that could detect these debilitating infections early and identify the bacteria responsible. The implant would then provide therapy by dispensing the appropriate antibacterial compound from an internal reservoir and monitor the effectiveness of the treatment. In addition, the implant would be able to communicate what it had done back to a physician using wireless technology.
The group, which met for the first time in April, includes a variety of specialities that do not normally work together including clinicians, microbiologists, electrical engineers, biofilms experts and MEMs technologists. Because of the diverse backgrounds, they spent much of meeting giving lectures about their respective fields. "Everyone was trying to educate everyone else," says Ehrlich.
Ehrlich cautions that this
Contact: Jim Sliwa
American Society for Microbiology