November 19, 2008 — Researchers in New Mexico and Florida are reporting development of
microscopic particles that act as chemical booby traps for bacteria. The traps
attract and kill up to 95 percent of nearby bacteria, including microbes
responsible for worrisome hospital-based infections. The scientists describe
their discovery as micro-sized “roach motels” for harmful bacteria. Their
study is scheduled to go online November 24 in the premiere issue of ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a
new monthly journal. It is scheduled for the January 28 print
In the report, David G. Whitten of the University of New
Mexico and Kirk S. Schanze of the University of Florida, working together with a team of
faculty and graduate student collaborators, point out that bacterial
contamination of medical devices causes up to 1.4 million deaths per year. In
addition, bacteria are becoming more resistant to standard disinfection methods.
Scientists also are increasingly concerned about the possibility of intentional
release of harmful bacteria by terrorists. As a result, researchers are
attempting to develop new and improved methods of disinfection.
New Mexico and Florida groups describe an advance toward this
goal. It involves the development of light-activated, hollow microcapsules
composed of an organic conducting polymer. The antibacterial microcapsules can
attract, capture, and kill bacteria. In controlled laboratory tests, the
researchers exposed the capsules to either Pseudomonas aeruginosa, one of the
deadliest and most common hospital-based pathogens, or Cobetia marina, a type of bacterium that
fouls the hulls of ships and other marine equipment. After one hour of light
exposure, the light-activated capsules killed more than 95 percent of the
exposed bacteria, the researchers say. The microcapsules can be applied to a
variety of surfaces, including medical equipment, they add.
News release courtesy of The American Chemical Society, a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in
providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases,
peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences.