To clear up the bac­teria, patients often face fur­ther surgery to remove implants, as well as a reg­imen of antibi­otics. But these drugs can fail as microbes mutate and develop resistance.
“It’s a huge problem,” said Thomas Web­ster, a chem­ical engi­neer at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, in Boston, “which is why we like non-​​drug solu­tions — like selenium.”
Our bodies nat­u­rally con­tain trace amounts of sele­nium: it’s a com­po­nent of sev­eral impor­tant enzymes. But although small quan­ti­ties of this ele­ment are part of a healthy diet, in large amounts, it can be toxic. And on its own, it can kill both cancer cells and bacteria.
As Web­ster dis­cov­ered, mate­rials coated with tiny par­ti­cles of sele­nium will resist bac­te­rial col­o­niza­tion. In his most recent study, pub­lished in the journal Nan­otech­nology, he pitted selenium-​​coated poly­mers against the cul­prit behind staph infec­tions: the bac­teria Staphy­lo­coccus aureus.

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