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Pathogen fighting cloth shows success

The main idea behind the fabric is to reduce the number of antibiotics and antimicrobials administered. Sometimes, when a patient has a serious wound there is a risk of infection. With the wound bound, a nurse or clinician does not know, until other symptoms appear (like fever), that the wound has become infected with a pathogenic organism. For this reason, some hospitals hand out antimicrobials as a precaution. The somewhat arbitrary distribution of antimicrobials ultimately acts against the battle with antimicrobial resistant bacteria.

Antimicrobial resistant organisms pose a major threat to health services, because they are not treatable with regular medications. The antibiotic crisis has arisen due to bacterial evolution and plasmid transfer, where genetic modifications can impart resistance. Part of this stems from the overuse of antimicrobials.

The researchers behind the pathogen-fighting cloth hope that the use of the cloth for wound dressing will mean antimicrobials do not need to be used. The cloth has been developed in South Korea. A secondary use is as a face mask, to capture and destroy bacteria that could be breathed out by medical staff onto patients.

The cloth was created by an industry-academic consortium linked with the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST). The first applications include face masks, as well as bandages.

The cloth is formed from a natural bacterial pigment termed “Violacein” (derived from bacteria of the genus Chromobacterium; the pigment is, as the name suggests, violet in color.) Chemically, bisindole violacein is formed by the condensation of two tryptophan molecules through the action of five proteins. The pigment is extracted using a chemical process. The pigment is then used to infuse everyday fabrics.

Trials of the new material have proved effective against drug-resistant forms of the skin commensurable organism Staphylococcus aureus. Masks made from the material have successfully been tried out at the Dong Kang General Hospital, a local hospital in Ulsan, South Korea. Despite the reported success, the research as yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal.

As well as fighting pathogens, violacein may also be useful for the treatment of colon and other cancers.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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