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updated 7/13/2011 4:45:22 PM ET 2011-07-13T20:45:22

Germaphobes have reason to celebrate with the release of a new technology that kills microbes and keeps them away with just one spraying. The chemically engineered technology works on a range of products, from hospital linens to children’s toys.

The protected items will remain germ-free even after standing in hot temperatures and going through multiple washes, the researchers say. Eventually, this technology could be transformed into antimicrobial products that are durable, inexpensive, and safe to use.

The advent of this technology is especially promising for the health care sector, where contamination is a constant threat. Approximately one out of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a health care-associated infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, items known to be infested with microbes, such as lab coats, gowns and gloves, can be protected in order to prevent the spread of such infections.

The technology’s inventor, University of Georgia researcher Jason Locklin, tested the germ-repellant textile on staph, strep, E.coli, and other bacteria common in the health care setting. Locklin also examined its effects on consumer products by testing it against a wide spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds that stain and destroy fabrics, cause diseases and produce odors.

“The spread of pathogens on textiles and plastics is a growing concern, especially in health care facilities and hotels, which are ideal environments for the proliferation and spread of very harmful microorganisms, but also in the home,” Locklin said.

The technology is composed of two elements, one that binds to the surface permanently and another that renders the material antimicrobial. Whether it’s a T-shirt or kitchen counter, by changing the structure of the surface in a certain way, germs are killed on contact.

“This is a very rare opportunity to reach a broad spectrum,” said Gennaro Gama, senior technology manager at University of Georgia Research Foundation who was not involved in the development of the technology. “An antimicrobial can be attached to the surface of virtually any material and is comprised of inexpensive materials and the manufacturing is scalable so all these things coming together make for a very strong technology.”

Depending on how quickly the University of Georgia Research Foundation enters into a licensing agreement with a company, it could take a few months or a couple of years for a product that uses the new textile to be released. Several companies have already shown interest in the technology, according to Gama.

By tweaking this technology, it can have innumerable of uses, Gama added. For instance, to address the problem of quick-fading color dyes, this technology could be used to bind the pigment to the hair, making dye last longer. Or, by combining this technology with certain polymers, users could prevent grease from attaching to glass surfaces.

“The key element here is the component that binds to the surface. The derivatives made from that component are multiple. The sky is the limit a little bit,” Gama said.

 

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