Nanotubes Fight E. Coli?

The Science Teacher, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Nanotubes Fight E. Coli?


New research shows single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) can kill bacteria, such as the common pathogen E. coli, by severely damaging the bacteria's cell walls. The research is the first direct evidence that "carbon nanotubes have powerful antimicrobial activity, a discovery that could help fight the growing problem of antibiotic resistant infections," say researchers from Yale University.

"We began the study out of concerns for the possible toxicity of nanotubes in aquatic environments and their presence in the food chain," explains the study's senior author Menachem Elimelech, professor and chair of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale. "While nanotubes have great promise for medical and commercial applications there is little understanding of how they interact with humans and the environment."

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Using the simple E. coli as test cells, the researchers incubated cultures of the bacteria in the presence of the nanotubes for up to an hour. The microbes were killed immediately, but only when there was direct contact with aggregates of the SWCNTs that touched the bacteria. …

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