Antimicrobial textile coating makes superbug-squashing hospital curtains
Hospitals are meant to heal people, but there’s an increasing risk of patients picking up a superbug or two during their stay. Scientists have now developed long-lasting antimicrobial coatings for textiles that could allow things like hospital curtains to quickly kill viruses and bacteria.
Despite the best efforts of medical staff, hospitals can be hotbeds of pathogen exchange. And while smooth surfaces like door handles or railings can be fairly easy to disinfect, it’s harder to clean materials like textiles. For the new study, scientists at Empa, BASF, Spiez Laboratory and the Technical University of Berlin have developed a new treatment to make fabrics antimicrobial.
The team concocted a new formula of disinfectant that contained benzalkonium chloride, then applied it to fabric samples by soaking them in a primer solution then running them through coater rolls. The technique was carefully optimized so that just the right concentration, exposure time, pressure and drying were applied to ensure the coating stuck to the fabric just right.
To test the antimicrobial power of the coating, the team then incubated common hospital bacteria like staphylococcus and pseudomonas with the samples. After just 10 minutes the bacteria were significantly reduced or killed. The coating also fared well against viruses, killing 99% of them.
That’s a good start, but it’s no use being effective at killing bacteria and viruses if the effect is short-lived. So the team also conducted experiments to investigate how durable the fabric coating would be. Samples stored for six months were found to have the same antibacterial profile as fresh ones, and artificial aging tests suggested that the coating would remain stable on fabric for up to five years.
The coating is easily washed away however, so it wouldn’t be suitable for applications like staff uniforms, patient gowns or bedding. But the team says the coating could be useful for things like curtains around beds or air filters. Combined with other weapons like antimicrobial lights or materials, the coating could eventually help curb the spread of superbugs in hospitals.
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.