Fast-Acting Antimicrobial Kills E. Coli In Seconds

Potential applications for the antimicrobial material include consumer and personal care products.

AsianScientist (Jun. 8, 2016) – Researchers in Singapore have developed a new material that can kill harmful Escherichia coli bacteria within 30 seconds. Their work has been published in Small.

Triclosan, a common ingredient in toothpastes, soaps and detergents that reduces or prevents bacterial infections, has been linked to drug resistance in microbes and adverse health effects. The European Union has restricted the use of triclosan in cosmetics, and the US Food and Drug Administration is conducting an on-going review of this ingredient.

Driven by the need for a safer alternative, group leader Dr. Zhang Yugen from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) and colleagues synthesized a chemical compound made up of molecules linked together in a chain. This material, called imidazolium oligomers, can kill 99.7 percent of E. coli bacteria within 30 seconds.

Imidazolium oligomers’ chain-like structure helps to penetrate the bacterial cell membrane and destroy it. In contrast, antibiotics only kill the bacteria without destroying the cell membrane; leaving the cell structure intact allows new antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow.

“Computational chemistry studies supported our experimental findings that the chain-like compound works by attacking the cell membrane,” said Zhang. “This material is also safe for use because it carries a positive charge that targets negatively-charged bacteria without destroying red blood cells.”

Imidazolium oligomers come in the form of a white powder that is soluble in water. The researchers also found that once it was dissolved in alcohol, it formed gels spontaneously. Thus, this material could be incorporated into alcohol-based sprays for sterilizing hospitals or homes.

Besides E. coli, the bacteria-destroying material was also tested against other common strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Candida albicans. These pathogens can cause conditions ranging from skin infections to toxic shock syndrome. The material was shown to kill 99.9 percent of these microbes within two minutes.

The article can be found at: Riduan et al. (2016) Ultrafast Killing and Self-Gelling Antimicrobial Imidazolium Oligomers.


Source: IBN; Photo: NIAID/Flickr/CC.
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