A discovery by scientists at Trinity College Dublin could help prevent the spread of bacteria through infected medical devices.

The finding should in the future help reduce the risk contamination through objects such as replacement joints and heart valves, thereby improving patient recovery.

The team of microbiologists discovered a method to stop communities of the bacteria known as staphylococci from growing by focusing on the linkages that bind them together.

The method involves use of a blocking molecule which stops the bacteria from sticking to the device's surface and to one another.

The team, led by Dr Joan Geoghegan, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Trinity's School of Genetics and Microbiology, found a protein called SdrC, attached to the bacteria's surface, could be prevented from binding using the blocking peptide.

Often biofilms of staphylococci develop on devices after they are implanted into the body and can avoid being destroyed by the immune system or antibiotics, leading to serious infections.

Such infections also have a financial cost, estimated to be in the region of €50,000-90,000 per incident. 

"This exciting breakthrough will inform the design of new, targeted approaches to prevent biofilm formation by staphylococci and reduce the incidence of medical device-related infection," said Dr Geoghegan.

Published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study was supported by researchers at the Université Catholique de Louvain.