RMIT researchers have developed a new antibacterial fabric that can kill a range of infectious bacteria, such as E coli, within 10 minutes.
The discovery could significantly reduce the risk of deadly hospital-acquired infections and revolutionise the way the medical industry deals with infection control.
Secondary infections are a serious and potentially deadly complication for hospital patients.
Antibacterial fabrics do not allow nasty disease-causing bacteria, like Staphylococcus, to stick to and grow on their surface – creating an infection-free environment.
There is potential for special bedding, linens and surgical aprons on which bugs and bacteria do not grow, so we can maintain an infection-free environment in our healthcare settings,” he said.
Dressings and Band-Aids that can kill bacteria in the wound, resulting in faster healing. These will all have a major impact on the cost of the healthcare system.”
The next generation of smart textiles will be free from bacteria and odour and have a range of potential applications from clothing – putting an end to smelly socks – to sporting gear and uniforms.
Organic materials with semi-conductor properties can have superior antibacterial effects over metal salts of silver which are already known for their antibacterial properties
To test the concept, they grew nanowires on fabric which confirmed the antibacterial properties of Ag-TCNQ (tetracyanoquinodimethane).
“Silver metal, when it comes into contact with body fluids, releases silver ions and these ions are actually toxic and have anti-microbial and antibacterial properties.
The team developed a new material called silver TCNQ, which releases silver ions very slowly for a long-term antibacterial effect.
A nanoparticle is a very small particle where at least one dimension is between one and 100 nanometres (1nm is 1,000,000 times smaller than a millimetre).
“The Holy Grail is to engineer the nanoparticles so they become highly active against infectious bacteria, but they do not kill human cells,” he said.
“Traditionally, silver nanoparticles are more toxic than gold nanoparticles but our research has shown that silver can be made very safe for biomedical applications by controlling the surface chemistry of nanoparticles.
The surface of the nanoparticle is critically important because it is what first comes into contact with bacteria or human cells.