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Bacteria that grow in association with medical devices always form slime enclosed biofilms, within which they are protected, to a large extent, from the bactericidal activity of chemical biocides and antibiotics. Mature biofilms (>7 days) are demonstrably resistant to 500-5,000 times the concentrations of these agents than are necessary to kill free floating (planktonic) cells of the same organism. The authors have discovered that this well established inherent resistance of biofilm bacteria to antibacterial agents can be completely obviated if these agents are applied to these adherent populations within an electric field. The killing of biofilm bacteria by antibiotics can be dramatically enhanced by relatively weak electric fields (1.5 V/cm and 15 [mu]A/CM2) that, in themselves, have no deleterious effects on these slime protected populations adherent to plastic or metal surfaces. This bioelectric technology can readily be used to enhance the preimplantation sterilization of medical devices by biocides. The authors suggest that it may also be used to control biofilm formation and consequent infection by electrically enhanced perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis and by electrically enhanced penetration of antibiotics to kill the biofilm bacteria that form the inherently resistant nidus of chronic device related infections.

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