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"New Threads" -- The Discovery Files

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Scientists at UMass-Amherst report the discovery of an antibacterial coating for surgical sutures that is almost 1,000 times more effective than the most widely used commercial coating.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

The 'Anti' that Binds

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: operating room) One of the most common complications after surgery is infection at the site of the incision. Sutures are coated with an antibiotic--most commonly triclosan--which does slow the growth of bacteria, but does not kill those already present. Because triclosan has been so widely used in household products like hand sanitizers, new strains of bacteria are finding ways around it. And triclosan can be absorbed by the body raising concerns about possible health effects.

Scientists at Umass-Amherst have discovered an antibacterial coating about a thousand times more effective than triclosan. And because of the way it works, it has a very low chance of causing bacterial resistance it's called PAMBM designed from naturally-occurring antimicrobial peptides that can kill a wide range of bacteria at the site of the wound.

In tests, the team compared PAMBM directly against triclosan-coated stitches. The PAMBM sutures showed much greater reduction in the amount of bacteria.

With bacterial resistance increasing because of the over-use of antibiotics, this new coating could be the proverbial 'stitch-in-time.' Naturally-derived, more effective, low chance of contributing to super-bugs we could be looking at the future of sutures.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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