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article imageNew material kills E. coli on contact in 30 seconds

By Tim Sandle     Jun 13, 2016 in Science
Singapoe - Scientists have created a new material that can kill pathogens rapidly. In tests the bacterium Escherichia coli was destroyed within 30 seconds.
Pathogenic bacteria pose a risk to people in hospitals, many of whom will be immunocompromised, and in relation to food handling. One type of bacteria, for which there are several pathogenic variants, is Escherichia coli. In order to find better ways to protect patients and consumers, researchers have developed a new antimicrobial material.
One of the drivers for the development of the new material relates to the restrictions placed within Europe and the U.S. on triclosan. This is due to the risk that the product alters hormone regulation. Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in some consumer products, such as toothpaste, soaps, detergents, toys, and surgical cleaning treatments.
With developing the new material, researchers synthesized a chemical compound, called imidazolium, which is made up of molecules linked together in a chain. The material is created in the form of a white powder. The powder has applications as a coat for other materials since it is soluble in water. It can also form a flexible gel when dissolved in alcohol. This leads to an application as a form of disinfectant, being used to spray surfaces in hospitals and homes.
Imidazolium oligomers (a molecular complex) showed in studies that destruction of Escherichia coli is possible down to a level of 99.7 percent within 30 seconds.
The level of kill is in part due to the chain-like structure of imidazolium. This structure aids the penetration of the bacterial cell membrane. One the chemical penetrates it destroys the bacteria. In this sense the chemical acts like a disinfectant rather than an antibiotic.
In a research note, the lead scientist behind the development, Professor Jackie Y. Ying, said: "Our unique material can kill bacteria rapidly and inhibit the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Computational chemistry studies supported our experimental findings that the chain-like compound works by attacking the cell membrane.2
In relation to the concerns about triclosan, Ying added: “This material is also safe for use because it carries a positive charge that targets the more negatively charged bacteria, without destroying red blood cells.”
The new chemical has attracted interest on social media, with scientist Durba Sengupta (@durbignon) tweeting: "Next gen #AMPs imidazolium oligomers appear to be really potent! #BacterialResistance #Antibiotics."
The material was developed at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), in Singapore. The findings have been published in the journal Small, with the research titled “Ultrafast Killing and Self-Gelling Antimicrobial Imidazolium Oligomers.”
More about Pathogens, Microbiology, E coli, Triclosan
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