Researchers from RMIT University and CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency, have invented a copper surface that kills bacteria 100 times faster and more effectively than conventional copper, potentially aiding in the fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
According to Ma Qian, one of the study’s experts, “a normal copper surface will kill roughly 97 percent of golden staph after four hours.” “When golden staph bacteria was placed on our specially-designed copper surface, it annihilated more than 99.99 percent of the cells in under two minutes,” says the researcher.
According to Qian, the 120-fold increase in effectiveness has been accomplished without the use of any drugs.
“For such a common material, our copper structure has shown to be incredibly potent,” he said.
When the new material is further developed, Qian and his colleagues believe it will have a wide range of applications, including antimicrobial door handles and other touch surfaces in schools, hospitals, homes, and public transportation, as well as filters in antimicrobial respirators or air ventilation systems, and face masks.
The researchers are now testing 3D-printed samples to see how effective the increased copper is against SARS-CoV-2.
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As per an article posted in the journal Biomaterials, the scientists revealed that an alloy was created using a particular copper mould casting method that arranged copper and manganese atoms into specific shapes. The manganese atoms were then taken off from the alloy using a low-cost, scalable chemical technique known as “dealloying,” leaving pure copper with thousands of micro and nanoscale cavities on its surface.
“Our copper is made up of comb-like microscale cavities, with much smaller nanoscale cavities within each tooth of that comb structure; it has a huge active surface area,” stated lead researcher Jackson Leigh Smith.
Smith pointed out that the pattern makes the surface extraordinarily hydrophilic or water-loving, so water settles as a flat film rather than droplets on it.
“The hydrophilic effect causes bacterial cells to fight to maintain their shape as they are stretched by the surface nanostructure,” the researcher explained, “while the porous design permits copper ions to release faster.”
According to Smith, these combined effects promote structural degeneration of bacterial cells, making them more vulnerable to the toxic copper ions and facilitating copper ion uptake into bacterial cells.
“It’s the combination of impacts that causes bacteria to be eliminated much more quickly,” he explained.
Researchers worldwide are working to create novel medicinal materials and devices that could aid in the fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs. According to the researchers behind the novel copper surface, the reason for this is that drug-resistant diseases are on the rise, and with few new antibiotics on the horizon, developing bacteria-resistant materials will likely play a crucial part in addressing the problem.