how some of natures apex predators are helping fight infections

By now, most hospital officials are all too aware of the threat to patient safety posed by the spread of potentially deadly bacteria and the accompanying infections. Unfortunately, while many facilities have tried to implement comprehensive sterilization measures in an attempt to combat the spread of pathogens — i.e., strict hand washing, wardrobe and room cleaning requirements — the threat of potentially deadly infections remains.

In recognition of the fact that surfaces in hospitals can be breeding grounds for bacteria like MRSA and MSSA, scientists have been hard at work trying to develop new surface material better able to prevent the spread of bacteria.

While copper alloys have gained significant attention because of their toxicity to bacterial cells, there may be a new type of hospital surface available that is perhaps better able to curb the spread of bacteria thanks to its mimicking the skin surface of one of nature’s apex predators.

The hospital surface in question is called Sharklet and is designed to imitate the otherwise scaly characteristics of sharkskin, which can actually inhibit bacteria growth thanks to the presence of naturally occurring micro tooth-like patterns known as denticles.

In the most recent edition of the journal Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, the researchers behind Sharklet published the results of a study, which they say provides definitive proof that the micro-pattern design of their surface covering should be at the vanguard of efforts to combat hospital-acquired infections.

Here, they designed a series of tests to measure how well three surfaces — smooth surfaces, copper surfaces and Sharklet surfaces — stopped the spread of dangerous MRSA and MSSA bacteria that were transmitted to each of these surfaces via simulated sneezing, touching and spilling.

The tests ultimately revealed that the Sharklet surface harbored 94 percent less MRSA bacteria than the smooth surface (i.e., the control), while the copper surface harbored 80 percent less MRSA bacteria than the smooth surface.

Similarly, the Sharklet surface was found to harbor 97 percent less MSSA bacteria than the smooth surface, while the copper surface actually fared little better than the control.

While it’s certainly too early to proclaim Sharklet as the next big innovation in hospital safety equipment, it’s nevertheless encouraging to see researchers hard at work to keep patients safe from all too real and all too deadly hospital-acquired infections.

Source: Laboratory Equipment, “Sharks inspire hospital surfaces to cut infections,” Sept. 17, 2014

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