Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a leading hospital acquired infection in intensive care units despite improved patient care practices and advancements in endotracheal tube (ETT) designs. The ETT provides a conduit for bacterial access to the lower respiratory tract and a substratum for biofilm formation, both of which lead to VAP. A novel microscopic ordered surface topography, the Sharklet micro-pattern, has been shown to decrease surface attachment of numerous microorganisms, and may provide an alternative strategy for VAP prevention if included on the surface of an ETT. To evaluate the feasibility of this micro-pattern for this application, the microbial range of performance was investigated in addition to biofilm studies with and without a mucin-rich medium to simulate the tracheal environment in vitro.
The top five pathogens associated with ETT-related pneumonia, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumonia, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Escherichia coli, were evaluated for attachment to micro-patterned and un-patterned silicone surfaces in a short-term colonization assay. Two key pathogens, MRSA and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, were evaluated for biofilm formation in a nutrient rich broth for four days and minimal media for 24 hours, respectively, on each surface type. P. aeruginosa was further evaluated for biofilm formation on each surface type in a mucin-modified medium mimicking tracheal mucosal secretions. Results are reported as percent reductions and significance is based on t-tests and ANOVA models of log reductions. All experiments were replicated at least three times.
Micro-patterned surfaces demonstrated reductions in microbial colonization for a broad range of species, with up to 99.9% (p < 0.05) reduction compared to un-patterned controls. Biofilm formation was also reduced, with 67% (p = 0.12) and 52% (p = 0.05) reductions in MRSA and P. aeruginosa biofilm formation, respectively. Further, a 58% (p < 0.01) reduction was demonstrated on micro-patterned surfaces for P. aeruginosa biofilms under clinically-simulated conditions when compared to un-patterned controls.
This engineered micro-pattern reduces the colonization and biofilm formation of key VAP-associated pathogens in vitro. Future application of this micro-pattern on endotracheal tubes may prevent or prolong the onset of VAP without the need for antimicrobial agents.