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Bacteria-fighting plastics stop spread of infections

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Researchers have found a way to use silver nanoparticles and small electric current to hack conducting plastics.

Researchers at the Swedish Medical Nanoscience Center at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed an innovative way of hacking conducting plastics that could stop the spread of infection in patients and hospitals. The method was found to prevent bacterial growth using silver nanoparticles and a small electrical current. Bacteria is often spread via plastic implements found in all hospitals such as tubes and surfaces, all of which can harbour harmful microbes. Bacteria can also survive for long periods of time on such surfaces, causing it to spread to people that touch effected items.

While both large electrical currents and high silver concentrations are known to kill bacteria, they also pose a risk to humans which is why their use in hospitals is usually limited. The research team focussed on hospital pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, and found that applying tiny electrical currents to a conducting plastic surface had no effect on bacterial growth. On a similar surface exposing an attached layer of silver nanoparticles, bacterial growth was reduced. However, application of a tiny electrical current to the latter surface enhanced the effect of attached silver nanoparticles, and the bacteria were completely destroyed.

Researchers hope that the innovative solution will help to keep surfaces in hospitals and other settings requiring high hygienic standards free from bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections. Research into bacteria, what it can do and how to fight against it, has been plentiful of late. Who thought bacteria could have so many purposes, such as charging a micro-battery or glowing when near landmines as an alert? How else could bacteria be researched to actually be useful?

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