Biofouling of surfaces is a major cause of infection and leads to significant patient morbidity and mortality within healthcare settings. With ever-increasing concerns over antibiotic resistance and associated challenges in eradicating surface-attached biofilm communities, efficacious antifouling materials are urgently required. We herein describe the development of an inherently antiadherent polymer system with the capacity for on-demand cleavage of surface-localized surfactant moieties. The nonionic surfactant, Triton X-100, was linked to hydrogel monomers via hydrolytically labile ester bonds. Synthesized copolymers exhibited pH-dependent switching of surfactant release, with elution triggered under the alkaline conditions characteristic of catheter-associated urinary tract infections and subsequently slowed down as the pH decreased, representing eradication of infection. In addition, the materials demonstrated complete resistance to adherence of Staphylococcus aureus following 24 h incubation in infected artificial urine, with reductions in adherence of Proteus mirabilis of up to 89% also observed. This dual-pronged approach with active, infection-responsive cleavage of surfactant to enhance the antiadherent properties of the surfactant-modified surfaces represents a promising self-cleaning strategy without associated concerns over bacterial resistance.
- surfactant conjugates