SYDNEY, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) — Australian researchers developed a new copper surface that could kill bacteria more than 100 times faster and more effectively than standard copper, which is expected to help combat the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
The finding, published in the Biomaterials on Monday, is the result of a collaborative research project with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).
“A standard copper surface will kill about 97 percent of golden staph within four hours,” said RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor of Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Ma Qian. “When we placed golden staph bacteria on our specially-designed copper surface, it destroyed more than 99.99 percent of the cells in just two minutes.”
Copper has long been used to fight different strains of bacteria, including the commonly found golden staph because the ions released from the metal’s surface are toxic to bacterial cells. However, the process is slow on standard copper.
Former CSIRO researcher and the study’s lead author Jackson Leigh Smith said the copper’s unique porous structure was key to its effectiveness as a rapid bacteria killer.
Researchers used a unique copper mold-casting process to make the alloy and arranged copper and manganese atoms into specific formations, which makes the surface not only massively active but also super hydrophilic, resulting in greatly accelerated elimination of bacteria.
More importantly, these results were achieved without the assistance of any drug as the copper structure has shown itself to be remarkably potent for such a common material, said Qian.
Researchers said as drug-resistant infections are on the rise and with limited new antibiotics coming onto the market, the development of materials resistant to bacteria will likely play an important role in helping address the problem.
The team believes there could be an extensive range of applications for the new material once further developed, including antimicrobial door handles and other touch surfaces in schools, hospitals, homes and public transport, filters in antimicrobial respirators or air ventilation systems, and in face masks.
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