DHA Emerges as a New Vanguard in Infection Prevention

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid from fish or algae oil, is widely used as a dietary supplement in pregnant women and infants and as a treatment for hyperlipidemia. Professor Hao-Chieh Chiu and his team from the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Medical Biotechnology at National Taiwan University have expanded the application of DHA with support from the National Science and Technology Council. They discovered that combining DHA with a novel small molecule compound SC5005 can effectively eradicate biofilms on catheters and potentially as a therapy to prevent catheter-associated infections. This innovative research finding has been published in international journals and granted patents in the United States, European Union, Taiwan, and China. Moreover, this achievement was recognized with the 20th National Innovation Award in the Academic Research Innovation category.

Biofilm is a bunker-like shield formed by one or more species of bacteria that adhere to the surface through the secretion of extracellular polymeric substances.  Biofilms are prevalent on a variety of artificial implants and medical devices. For instance, the development of biofilm on Foley catheters markedly elevates the risk of Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs). In severe scenarios, these infections can escalate into life-threatening conditions such as renal failure and sepsis, underscoring the significant health risks posed by biofilms. The latest research finding of Professor Chiu's team found that the combination of DHA with SC5005, displays superior synergistic bactericidal activity without detectable cytotoxicity toward human cell lines. This combination can effectively eradicate nearly 98% of biofilms on test tubes and 95% of biofilms on foley catheters removed from patients within 10 minutes, regardless of bacterial species or antibiotic resistance. Remarkably, bacteria did not develop resistance even after being continuously exposed to this combination for 35 days. Given its fast-acting biofilm-eradicating activity, the team has named this combination ERAfilm (Eradicate Biofilm). 

About 25% of hospitalized patients need to use Foley catheters during their hospital stay, and up to 75% of these catheter users are at risk of developing CAUTIs. As Taiwan heads toward becoming a super-aged society, the demand for artificial catheter treatments is expected to rise. The accompanying biofilm-related infections will not only complicate the patient's primary conditions but also place the treatment a substantial burden on the healthcare system. Currently, there are no safe and effective clinical approaches for eradicating biofilm on catheters. To confront this unmet medical need, Professor Chiu and his team members have developed a groundbreaking strategy.

In the future, the irrigation channel of the existing three-channel urinary catheter can be used to inject normal saline containing ERAfilm into the patient's bladder to prevent CAUTIs by removing the bacterial biofilm on the urinary catheter in the bladder. Professor Chiu anticipates that this simple and non-invasive procedure will enable patients to perform it at home, thereby reducing the risk of recurrent CAUTIs. This approach will not only improve patients’ well-being but also reduce the overall burden on the healthcare system. Looking into the future, the team will continue to conduct in-depth research to ensure the safety and efficacy of ERAfilm in clinical applications, aiming to translate this breakthrough achievement into practical medical solutions to assist clinicians in infection prevention.

Media Contact:
Lu-Kai Wang
Program Manager
Department of Life Sciences
National Science and Technology Council 
Phone: +886-02-2737-7907 
E-mail: lkwang@nstc.gov.tw

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Last Modified : 2024/04/22