New Coating Protects from Superbugs

TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2016

Scientists in Ireland say they’ve discovered a breakthrough coating that could protect everyday surfaces from bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

A team from Institute of Technology Sligo, led by Professor Suresh C. Pillai, published its findings in Scientific Reports. Its findings involve a coating of titanium dioxide, “doped” with nanoparticles of fluorine and copper.

According to the scientists, the coating can be applied in a water-based solution, and baked onto the surface that’s being treated. Surfaces that the solution works on include glass, metallic and ceramic materials. The coating renders the surface "99.9 percent resistant to superbugs like MRSA, E. coli and other fungi."

The researchers say this isn’t the first coating of its kind discovered, but that it works significantly better without the help of ultraviolet light—which is important for any applications that won’t be under sunlight.

“The challenge was the preparation of a solution that was activated by indoor light rather than UV light and we have now done that,” said Pillai.

Plethora of Applications

The most obvious application for superbug-resistant coatings would be in medical settings, but the researchers—and their funder, Irish company Kastus, with whom they share the patent—see plenty of other uses.

Surfaces in public spaces—public transit, retail stores, restaurants—could benefit from the coating. Handrails, door surfaces and other spots that people touch on a regular basis would be potential application sites.

Then, of course, there are electronic devices.

“The mobile phone is the most contaminated personal item that we can have. Bacteria grows on the phone and can live there for up to five months. … It’s fertile land for bacteria and has been shown to carry 30 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.”

And the researchers say they hope to find a way to incorporate the material into paint and into plastic materials, further broadening the usefulness of the substance.

Pillai's co-authors on the study are Nigel S. Leyland, Joanna Podporska-Carroll, Steven J. Hinder, Brid Quilty, and Kastus CEO John Browne.

“This is a game changer,” said Browne. “The uniqueness of antimicrobial surface treatment means that the applications for it in the real world are endless. The multinational glass manufacturers we are in negotiations with to sell the product to have been searching for years to come up with such a solution but have failed.”


Tagged categories: Antimicrobial coatings; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Nanotechnology; Research

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.