Science

More human-friendly antibacterial coating made from gold

More human-friendly antibacter...
Research team member Dr. Katarzyna Wybranska, with a wound dressing treated with the gold nanocomposite (Photo: ICHF)
Research team member Dr. Katarzyna Wybranska, with a wound dressing treated with the gold nanocomposite (Photo: ICHF)
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Research team member Dr. Katarzyna Wybranska, with a wound dressing treated with the gold nanocomposite (Photo: ICHF)
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Research team member Dr. Katarzyna Wybranska, with a wound dressing treated with the gold nanocomposite (Photo: ICHF)

We've been hearing a lot about the antibacterial qualities of silver, with silver nanoparticles finding use in everything from water filters to food packaging. Unfortunately, there are also concerns about the toxicity of those particles, particularly when they enter our bodies. Now, however, Polish scientists have developed what they claim is a safer alternative – an antibacterial coating that kills microbes using gold.

Developed at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, the coating can reportedly be applied to a wide variety of surfaces. It's said to be very chemically stable, and is able to withstand repeated washings with detergent.

The coating initially takes the form of liquid boron compounds which contain colloidal gold nanoparticles. The object to be coated is immersed in the solution, and a polymerizing agent is then added. This causes the liquid to form into a nanocomposite polymer, coating the surface of the object within about 12 minutes.

In lab tests, populations of E. coli and Staph. aureus bacteria decreased by up to 90 percent within 12 hours of exposure to the nanocomposite. Unlike some other antibacterial coatings, however, this one doesn't kill bacteria by releasing anything into their environment. Instead, the gold nanoparticles stay put, and only affect microbes that come into direct contact with them. Not only is this quality claimed to make the coating safer for people and the environment, but it should also allow it to remain effective for longer.

Additionally, the nanocomposite so far appears to be harmless to human cells. After being exposed to it for several months, four lines of human cells reportedly remained unharmed. In fact, cells even started growing on cotton wool fibers treated with it.

It is hoped that once developed further, the coating could be used on things like wound dressings and other medical applications, along with consumer goods such as sportswear, socks and underwear.

Source: Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences

4 comments
Elac Fooley
And what are the advantages/disadvantages over silver? Aside from allergic reactions.
VirtualGathis
@Elac Fooley - The two advantages are: The coating doesn't release particles so do not poison their surroundings, and the gold particles do not harm human cells.
Silver coatings release particles so if you had say a dog dish coated in the stuff the water would become toxic over time. The particles are also small enough to absorb via the skin so if you had clothing coated in it it could poison your body since silver particles kill everything including human cells. There is also some question about the silver lingering in the body rather than being flushed out by normal processes so it could build up over time.
JGTinNJ
The time it takes (12 hours) and the effectiveness (90% kill) are pretty poor for it to have commercial or practical value. Maybe it has potential if used in combination with other agents.
warren52nz
That's the first time I've heard anyone claim that silver is toxic to anything other than bacteria.