Synthetic rubber kills germs on contact

SAN FRANCISCO, March 27 - The first synthetic rubber that kills bacteria and other pathogenic organisms on contact was described here today at the 219th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The material - whose killing power is renewable - proved effective in laboratory tests against Staphylococcus aureus and other major sources of hospital infections. The study was presented by Shelby Davis Worley, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Worley says the new material - the first antimicrobial rubber - uses a different mechanism to fight infection than conventional coatings and protective plastics. In laboratory tests, it killed viruses and fungi, as well as bacteria. Worley believes this will be especially helpful for patients who are immunocompromised, including transplant recipients and people with cancer or AIDS. (These patients are at increased risk for deadly infections due to their weakened immune systems.)

Condoms made of the new rubber could help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, says Worley. The material could also be used in medical supplies and devices, including surgical gloves, aprons and catheters, as well as consumer products: beverage and food containers, lids and seals, and babies' bottles, nipples and pacifiers.

Antimicrobial protection has long been imparted by coating the surface of a material with a liquid or powder disinfectant. More recently, antimicrobial plastics have been used in consumer products such as toothbrushes, mattress pads and children's toys.

Antimicrobial plastics are composed of polymers mixed with special disinfectants. The plastic slowly releases the disinfectant over time, killing pathogens that come in contact with its surface. When the disinfectant runs out, the plastic permanently looses its disease-fighting ability.

Contact: Charmayne Marsh
(202) 872-4445
American Chemical Society

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