Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

On the Surface: A Good Idea for Killing Germs. (Infectious Disease)

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

On the Surface: A Good Idea for Killing Germs. (Infectious Disease)

Article excerpt

Consider the travels of the lowly cold germ: First, it latches onto a hand swiping across a drippy nose. From the hand, it makes a cool getaway onto a doorknob, and from there to the hand of another guy, who scratches his own nose and then gets sick. Now consider an alternative scenario conceived by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge: the bug lands on the doorknob and dies. Why? Because the doorknob killed it.

Actually, it's a coating on the doorknob that delivers the deadly blow. Surfaces coated with poly (4-vinyl-N-alkylpyridiniumbromide), or hexyl-PVP, a bactericidal material created at MIT, are lethal to many common household and hospital pathogens. "It's a simple coating that you can put on any ordinary surface--for instance toys, computer keyboards, hospital trays, bedsheets, or doorknobs--that will kill bacteria on contact," says principal investigator Alexander Klibanov, a professor of chemistry and bioengineering at MIT Addition of the coating during manufacturing could render the surfaces of many industrial products permanently sterile.

A coating of hexyl-HVP polymers might be envisioned as a "shag carpet" of flexible strands. One end of each strand binds permanently to the surface to be protected. The free end shreds the cellular walls of passing bacteria, releasing their internal structures. In a study published in the 22 May 2001 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Klibanov and his colleagues describe laboratory tests showing that surfaces coated with hexyl-PVP kill up to 99% of deposited Staphylococcus species, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli, all common disease-causing organisms. …

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