New technology makes textiles permanently germ-free; targets health care-associated infections

Jul 05, 2011

A University of Georgia researcher has invented a new technology that can inexpensively render medical linens and clothing, face masks, paper towels -- and yes, even diapers, intimate apparel and athletic wear, including smelly socks -- permanently germ-free.

The simple and inexpensive anti-microbial technology works on natural and synthetic materials. The technology can be applied during the manufacturing process or at home, and it doesn't come out in the wash. Unlike other anti-microbial technologies, repeated applications are unnecessary to maintain effectiveness.

"The spread of pathogens on and plastics is a growing concern, especially in healthcare facilities and hotels, which are ideal environments for the proliferation and spread of very harmful microorganisms, but also in the home," said Jason Locklin, the inventor, who is an assistant professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and on the Faculty of Engineering.

The anti-microbial treatment invented by Locklin, which is available for licensing from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., effectively kills a wide spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause disease, break down fabrics, create stains and produce odors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a healthcare-associated infection. Lab coats, scrub suits, uniforms, gowns, gloves and linens are known to harbor the microbes that cause patient infections.

Consumers' concern about harmful microbes has spurred the market for clothing, undergarments, footwear and home textiles with antimicrobial products. But to be practical, both commercial and consumer anti-microbial products must be inexpensive and lasting.

"Similar technologies are limited by cost of materials, use of noxious chemicals in the application or loss of effectiveness after a few washings," said Gennaro Gama, UGARF senior technology manager. "Locklin's technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry."

Gama said the technology is simple to apply in the manufacturing of fibers, fabrics, filters and plastics. It also can bestow antimicrobial properties on finished products, such as athletic wear and shoes, and textiles for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

"The advantage of UGARF's technology over competing methods," said Gama, "is that the permanent antimicrobial can be applied to a product at any point of the manufacture-sale-use continuum. In contrast, competing technologies require blending of the antimicrobial in the manufacturing process."

"In addition," said Gama, "If for some reason the antimicrobial layer is removed from an article—through abrasion, for example—it can be reapplied by simple spraying."

Other markets for the anti-microbial technology include military apparel and gear, food packaging, plastic furniture, pool toys, medical and dental instrumentation, bandages and plastic items.

Locklin said the antimicrobial was tested against many of the pathogens common in healthcare settings, including staph, strep, E. coli, pseudomonas and acetinobacter. After just a single application, no bacterial growth was observed on the textile samples added to the culture—even after 24 hours at 37 degrees Celsius.

Moreover, in testing, the treatment remained fully active after multiple hot water laundry cycles, demonstrating the antibacterial does not leach out from the textiles even under harsh conditions. "Leaching could hinder the applicability of this technology in certain industrial segments, such as food packaging, toys, IV bags and tubing, for example," said Gama.

Thin films of the new technology also can be used to change other surface properties of both cellulose- and polymer-based materials. "It can change a material's optical properties—color, reflectance, absorbance and iridescence—and make it repel liquids, all without changing other properties of the material," said Gama.

Explore further: Researchers open possible avenue to better electrolyte for lithium ion batteries

More information: A paper on the new technology was published by Locklin and colleagues online June 21 in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society.

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User comments : 15

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gwrede
2.7 / 5 (3) Jul 05, 2011
This sounds too good to be true. -- So, I'm not holding my breath until otherwise proved, and I see no side effects (think Thalidomide, DDT) for 20 years.

Until then, others are welcome to use this in their underwear, sports wear, apparel, plastic furniture, pool toys, dental instrumentation, bandages, plastic items, bed sheets, pillows, coats, etc. to their heart's content. But don't come crying to me.

But this was a good advertisement. Bet they'll get enough licence down payments before anyone discovers some "unexpected" downside.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Jul 05, 2011
No kidding dude, it probably contains nano-particles or something that we already know is bad for health and the environment. It may just be slightly more healthy than what they produce now.

Pretty sick when you realize our total lack of responsibility toward the ecosystem and life as a whole.
Royale
not rated yet Jul 05, 2011
The scariest part is watching documentaries about the way we used to do things and how it was even worse! So we are actually more responsible now, yet still have a total lack of responsibility, like Cave said.
FenderFennec
not rated yet Jul 05, 2011
Still, this approach would seem to be much cheaper than using copper-based metals in places such as ICU wards, etc.
EWH
not rated yet Jul 05, 2011
While this could be important if it works, the problem is thaat this article seems to have absolutely no information about the invention itself, how it works, what it is made out of, or anything other than the sort of unsupported claims that would be found in a product brochure. Even the title of the paper was omitted. This isn't science journalism, it's marketing.
jamesrm
not rated yet Jul 05, 2011
And the pathogens wont be able to develop (evolve) a way around this technique?

Reads like a deliberately evasive advertisement
Caliban
not rated yet Jul 05, 2011
Agreed. Very sketchy, indeed, and on many levels. For all we know, this could be nothing more than nanosilver particles suspended in a formaldehyde-based epoxy. Or something equally healthful and environmentally benign.
Mattsci
not rated yet Jul 06, 2011
I agree that this article is not exactly bursting with useful details but I do commend the fact that such work is being done and is being recognised. I live in Africa where the potential benefits of this technology could save the lives of millions of children and adults annually. I, for one, would certainly like to hear more about this technology in the future.
d2xyz
not rated yet Jul 06, 2011
The blatant nature of this advertisement prompted me to spend 5 minutes registering so I could complain about this BS being portrayed as news about science. Cum on man!
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jul 06, 2011
Agred. there's not one word about how this stuff works. For all the article says it could be a spray of radioactive plutonium encased in globelets of glue.
Does it work on chemical principles? Does it use physical properties that prevent bacteria from adhering to the fabric?

This is advertising and is certainly not something that is published in any peer reviewed journal that way.

Does this stuff interact with human sweat? Deaodorants? makeup? Does it rub off on the skin? Does it cause allergies?

Before all of these questions are adressed I'm not going to believe that this is the 'silver bullet' for germ free fabrics.
poof
3 / 5 (2) Jul 06, 2011
Its actually a aerosol of the inventors cum.

He has aids.
Honor
not rated yet Jul 06, 2011
sounds more like a promotional article than anything. Real objective journalism here.
first2jumpin
not rated yet Jul 06, 2011
promotional yes....but that's how all new technology starts...it's the steak in the sand. Too much information in the beginning and the big mega-chem companies swoop in, eat their prey and then claim the technology as their own. I am hoping it is real and not something that will also contribute to the evolution of 'superbugs' ahem...triclosan...in the sports gear industry - this would be awesome if it is real!
Cheers!
cmn
not rated yet Jul 11, 2011
If the technology can survive multiple hot washes it's probably something structurally-based. I read a few months back that a team invented a microscopic "pattern," small canals imprinted on a surface, that prevented certain bacteria from successfully multiplying by essentially "imprisoning" the individual bacteria. Maybe somebody could post a link to the article. I wouldn't be surprised if this tech is something similar.
cmn
not rated yet Jul 11, 2011

Here's something similar:
http://katerva.or...ke-skin/

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