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article imageMicroscopic bumps could repel hospital superbugs

By Tim Sandle     Sep 19, 2014 in Science
New research suggests that coating surfaces in hospitals with microscopic bumps and ridges could repel hospital superbugs (or at least prevent their attachment).
A recent series of experiments has modelled how well different materials can guard against the spread of human disease bacteria through. One material, which uses a specific micropattern was shown to be successful. The material has been trade named Sharklet.
The Sharklet material is an arrangement of ridges formulated to resemble shark skin. One extensive trial found that Sharklet harboured 90 percent less Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria when compared with a standard, smooth surface. Moreover, the developed material was found to be superior to copper. Copper is currently the leading antimicrobial material due to its toxic properties.
For the study, the researchers mimicked the effect of sneezing onto a surface by spraying on bacteria and replicated touching by dabbing a velvet cloth onto the surfaces multiple times. A third area was with mimicking spills. Here droplets were transferred onto the surfaces being studied. In each case, the Sharklet surfaces were the most effective.
The Sharklet micropattern functions due to its microscopic features preventing bacteria from attaching to it. The idea was inspired by the special properties of shark skin, which inhibits bacteria due to a natural micropattern of tooth-like structures, called denticles. The skin of the shark has developed this way to prevent marine organisms from adhering to the shark’s body.
The reason for exploring new surfaces is because many surfaces in are contaminated with bacteria and some of these bacteria are capable of causing infection. The main way by which contamination is controlled is through cleaning and disinfection. This is largely a manual process and reliant upon ward operatives completing the tasks correctly.
The research has been published in the journal Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control. The paper is titled “Surface micropattern limits bacterial contamination.”
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