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Utah State researchers working to prevent hospital infections — with spider silk

By Dylan Harlow

A lab at Utah State University dedicated to studying uses for synthetic spider silk has developed a working prototype of a coating that researchers believe will prevent bacterial infections caused by medical supplies such as catheters and intravenous tubes.

“This is a problem that not a lot of people are trying to fix,” said Justin Jones, a senior research scientist who oversees the project. “Infections from catheters are a major contributor to hospital infections, and we are trying to find a solution for that.”

Jones said the coating, which is made from synthetic spider silk proteins, could also be used on needles, scopes, stents and other medical devices used in patient treatment around the world.

“The real value here is the lack of toxicity,” said Tom Harris, a graduate research student involved with the project. “A lot of the time, anti-microbial solutions are toxic to humans. Our solution isn’t toxic, which will open up a plethora of different applications.”

In January, the lab applied for a government grant to officially add the project to its list of ongoing developments.

Jones said the grant will hopefully allow he and his fellow researchers to create a preventative measure against infections that will eventually be widespread throughout the medical industry.

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-mdl