This microbicidal coating - which can be chemically bonded to gauze bandages, socks and even hospital bedding and gowns - kills the two most common and harmful types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause infections in hospitals, the researchers said.
According to the National Institutes of Health, each year nearly 2 million Americans contract infections while hospitalized. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci, cause about 70 percent of those infections.
"Those are the two classes of bacteria that are now epidemic in the U.K.," said Gregory Schultz, Ph.D., director of UF's Institute for Wound Research and one of the inventors who joined with a Gainesville-based company to develop the coating. "It's a huge problem there."
A patent is pending on the researchers' method of chemically bonding the substance to fabrics and other materials. This method allows the substance to be efficiently mass produced and permanently adhered to wound dressings or ready-to-wear clothing to make antifungal and microbicidal socks and underwear.
"What we developed in the lab has to be able to be adapted into industrial manufacturing, and the breakthrough came when we figured out how to do that," Schultz said.
Clothing that kills athlete's foot and other fungi could help U.S. soldiers in the field who often don't have time to change or shower, and the substance also could be added to hospital gowns and bedding to stop the spread of resistant bugs, said Schultz, who also serves as the company's vice president of clinical research and development.