Ultra-low voltage proven effective at killing bacteria, study finds

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Ultra-low voltage electricity is effective at killing bacteria because it causes membranes that surround bacteria to leak, according to a new study by University of Arkansas researchers. The research advances work to fight drug-resistant bacteria.

Using E. coli bacteria, the team demonstrated that ultra-low voltage applied for 30 minutes created holes in the cell's membrane that allowed leakage of small molecules, ions and proteins both in and out of the cell, killing the bacterium.

While the antimicrobial property of electricity has long been known, it was not completely understood how ultra-low voltages damage and ultimately kill bacteria until this new finding, said Yong Wang, assistant professor of physics and part of the team that published the findings in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. "The we used is very low," said Wang. "A household battery can provide enough power. So can a one-centimeter square solar panel."

Such low voltage could, for example, be used to sterilize a doorknob or other high-touch surfaces that harbor without causing any harm to users, said Wang. It could also be used to hinder biofilm formation in and storage applications, he added.

Explore further

Research sheds light on how silver ions kill bacteria

More information: Venkata Rao Krishnamurthi et al. Microampere Electric Current Causes Bacterial Membrane Damage and Two-Way Leakage in a Short Period of Time, Applied and Environmental Microbiology (2020). DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01015-20
Citation: Ultra-low voltage proven effective at killing bacteria, study finds (2020, August 17) retrieved 16 October 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2020-08-ultra-low-voltage-proven-effective-bacteria.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors