HAIs include a range of different infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile). An estimated 3.5% of those that acquire a HAI die from the infection, according to research published by the British Medical Journal.
To lower the risk of HAI from touching contaminated surfaces, a new type of antimicrobial film coating has been developed by Merseyside-based vacuum coating solutions specialist, Gencoa, for use on a wide variety of healthcare surfaces with the aim of quickly eliminating environmental contamination between cleaning. To date, the film technology has been used on surfaces in busy public areas, for example on train station touchscreens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gencoa is now looking to explore applications in healthcare settings.
The initial stage of assessing the product’s viability for hospitals was undertaken in partnership with the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON), which was established in 2020 as ‘a world-leading centre for infection innovation and R&D’ based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which works in partnership with Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT). As part of iiCON’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) SME support programme, a fully funded study was conducted to verify the potential effectiveness of Gencoa’s antimicrobial coating, with the research particularly focusing on pathogens requiring new antibiotic treatments.
The results proved the solution could, ‘in principle’, be applied to a hospital setting, with the data a key contributor to Gencoa receiving additional funding for a larger study alongside LUHFT, which runs the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. Innovate UK awarded a £584,066 funding grant as part of its BioMedical Catalyst Award to a partnership between Gencoa, LSTM, and LUHFT, to optimise their coating for use in healthcare environments, and look for real-world data on efficacy and safety in a clinical environment.
Antimicrobial coatings will now be installed within clinical environments including touchscreens and door handles in the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital, which opened in October. To create the coatings, Midlands-based Diamond Coatings will transfer the new technology to production, and develop a high-volume roll-to-roll capability for coating adhesive pads to protect screens and other surfaces. The coatings will be in place for up to 12 months, with their performance assessed under standard NHS Infection Prevention and Control guidance for cleaning. Systematic environmental testing of both coated and uncoated surfaces will look for differences in contamination, while in parallel, testing in a mock ward environment at LSTM will investigate whether changes to clinical cleaning pathways could be safely considered.
Dermot Monaghan, MD at Gencoa, said: “The project utilises a ‘solid state’ coating applied to a surface by vacuum deposition to reduce contagion by rapidly killing microbes present. The highly robust coating provides a continuous self-sanitising effect for touchscreens and other parts in highly trafficked areas. The academic and grant support, combined with the material technology capabilities of industrial partners, have been vital to advancing Gencoa’s innovation into the healthcare sector.”
Dr Adam Roberts of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who led the research at iiCON, said: “The ERDF-funded study we conducted within iiCON meant Gencoa could access our advanced research facilities and the skills of a world-leading team that specialises in infectious diseases to prove the antibacterial performance of its new film coating. This helped secure further funding from Innovate UK, and a partnership with LUFHT which will move the research onto the next stage, and take the results from our laboratories into the real world.”
Dr Stacy Todd, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the NHS research lead for the project, added: “This is a great example of NHS, University, and industry partners working together to develop products with the real potential for patient benefit. The twin problems of healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance require broader thinking about what interventions can benefit patients, visitors, and staff, in making healthcare safer.”
Professor Terry Jones, the Trust’s director for Research and Innovation, said: “Finding new ways to combat HAIs and reduce the threat from antibacterial resistant microbes is of vital importance. This multidisciplinary, multi-partner study is also testament to the thriving collaborative approach to research and innovation in Liverpool City Region, bringing together clinical, industrial, and academic experts. Undertaking this study in such a new healthcare facility provides a rare opportunity to analyse innovative technology in a real-world, state-of-the-art environment.”