London: Researchers have developed a new copper implant that could help treat difficult-to-treat bone infection, without using antibiotics, finds a new study.
Osteomyelitis is a rare but serious condition characterised by an inflammation of bone caused by infection, generally in the legs, arms or spine.
The copper implant could be surgically placed at the infection site. It would kill bacteria, improve blood flow, and promote new bone growth without using antibiotics as well as reducing the need for bone grafting.
“Osteomyelitis is notoriously difficult to treat. Further work on the back of this research could lead to the complete development of a single-stage, off-the-shelf treatment,” said lead author Emily Ryan, a post-doctoral student from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).
“This in turn could reduce the need for antibiotics and bone grafting — thus also addressing issues with antibiotic resistance.”
The ability of a single implant to improve blood flow and enhance bone healing as well as inhibit infection without antibiotic treatment is a significant advancement over most existing treatments, according to the study published in the journal Biomaterials.
To design the new treatment, the team combined copper particles with bioactive glass — a type of glass used for bone repair — and incorporated it into an implant designed specifically for bone repair.
The copper-doped bioactive glass in the porous scaffold implant attracts blood vessels and bone cells, which accelerates bone repair. The copper ions in the implant also prevent bacterial growth, said the study, published in the journal Biomaterials.
People can develop osteomyelitis from broken bones, severe tooth decay and deep puncture wounds, among other causes. In the worst cases, osteomyelitis can result in amputation or be fatal.