Infection-Triggered, Self-Cleaning Surfaces with On-Demand Cleavage of Surface-Localized Surfactant Moieties

Nicola Irwin*, Johann Trotter, Louise Carson, Colin McCoy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-594
Number of pages9
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jan 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 27 Jan 2021


  • antifouling
  • infection-responsive
  • pH-triggered
  • surfactant conjugates


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