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Researchers Discover E.coli Bacteria-killing Material

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Engineers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) , a member of the A*STAR’s group of biomedical sciences institutes in Singapore have developed a new material that claims to kill E. coli bacteria quickly and without the adverse health effects of triclosan, a common antibacterial agent that has been restricted in the European Union.

IBN Group Leader Yugen Zhang, PhD, and his team, synthesized a chemical compound made up of molecules called “imidazolium oligomers” that link together in a chain. They found that these chainlike structures helped to penetrate cell membranes and destroy bacteria, killing 99.7 percent of E. coli bacteria within 30 seconds.

Current antibiotics can only kill bacteria but they fail to destroy the cell membrane, which allows new antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow. They also contain triclosan, which is suspected to act to make bacteria resistant to antibiotics, exacerbating adverse health effects. The FDA is conducting an ongoing review of triclosan and related similar products such as triclocarban, while the E.U. has placed restrictions on its use in cosmetics. Triclosan is commonly found in antibacterial toothpaste, soaps, and detergents.

This breakthrough also shows promise in combating other types of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Candida albicans. The new compound was shown to kill 99.9 percent of these microbes within two minutes, considered “ultrafast” by research standards.

The implications of this discovery are far-reaching, and promise to open up new avenues for combating the spread of worldwide pandemics through the use of improved antibiotics and hygiene. The findings of this study can be found in the peer-reviewed journal Small.


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