IMPRESS Proof of Concept projects

Hydrodynamic study of Catheter Biofilms

  • Principal Investigator

    Dr Alberto Marzo, Biomedical Engineering Theme Lead, University of Sheffield

  • Co-Investigators

    Dr Annette Taylor, Lecturer in Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield
    Dr Cecile Perrault, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, University of Sheffield
    Dr Esther Karunakaran, Lecturer in Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield


The design of urinary catheters has not changed significantly since it was introduced by Foley in 1930s. It has a number of drawbacks including a tendency to block due to the formation of encrustations created by biofilms of bacteria which in turn can lead to aggressive urinary tract infections. Biofilm formation is dependent on a number of factors including the type of microorganisms present, the physical and chemical properties of the surface, availability of nutrients and oxygen, and the hydrodynamic conditions.  Lack of knowledge about the interplay of these factors has hindered a step change in addressing the drawbacks in current catheter design.

The long term aim of this work is to investigate the feasibility of constructing a computational model incorporating all known factors that may affect biofilm formation in catheters.  The hope is that this exercise may identify the significant factors influencing biofilm formation thereby giving scope to design appropriate measures to mitigate the encrustation process. To date the causal link between catheter blockage and encrustations has only been demonstrated qualitatively and therefore, as a first step, this project will quantitatively evaluate the influence of flow on the behaviour of Proteus Mirabilis, an organism implicated in the formation of catheter encrustations.

Incontinence Management & PRevention through Engineering and ScienceS