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Self-sterilising polymer proves potent against drug-resistant pathogens

Washington D.C. , Aug 4 : A recent study has found that an elastic polymer possesses broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties, allowing it to kill a range of viruses and drug-resistant bacteria in just minutes including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The study has been published in the journal of 'Materials Horizons'.

"We were exploring a different approach for creating antimicrobial materials when we observed some interesting behavior from this polymer and decided to explore its potential in greater depth," said Rich Spontak, co-corresponding author of the study.

"And what we found is extremely promising as an alternate weapon to existing materials-related approaches in the fight against drug-resistant pathogens. This could be particularly useful in clinical settings such as hospitals or doctor's offices as well as senior living facilities, where pathogen transmission can have dire consequences," Spontak added.

The researchers tested the polymer against six types of bacteria, including three antibiotic-resistant strains MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, and carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. When 40 per cent or more of the relevant polymer units contain sulfonic acid groups, the polymer killed 99.9999 per cent of each strain of bacteria within five minutes.

The researchers also tested the polymer against three viruses an analog virus for rabies, a strain of influenza and a strain of human adenovirus.

"The polymer was able to fully destroy influenza and the rabies analog within five minutes," said Frank Scholle, co-author of the paper.

"While the polymer with lower concentrations of the sulfonic acid groups had no practical effect against human adenovirus, it could destroy 99.997 per cent of that virus at higher sulfonic acid levels."

One concern of the researchers was that the polymer's antimicrobial effect could progressively worsen over time, as sulfonic acid groups were neutralized when they interacted with positively charged ions (cations) in water. However, they found that the polymer could be fully "recharged" by exposing it to an acid solution.

"In laboratory settings, you could do this by dipping the polymer into a strong acid," said Ghiladi. "But in other settings - such as a hospital room - you could simply spray the polymer surface with vinegar."

"The work we've done here highlights a promising new approach to creating antimicrobial surfaces for use in the fight against drug-resistant pathogens - and hospital-acquired infections in particular," said Ghiladi.

"We are very eager to see how we can further modify this and other polymers to retain such effective and fast-acting antimicrobial properties while improving other attributes that would be attractive for other applications," said Spontak.

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Self-sterilising polymer proves potent against drug-resistant pathogens


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