Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have developed new agents to fight MRSA and other so-called hospital superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics.
The fluids are a class of ionic liquids that not only kill colonies of these dangerous microbes, they also prevent their growth.
A team of eight researchers, led by Brendan Gilmore and Martyn Earle, from the Queen's University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre developed these new antimicrobial agents.
Many types of bacteria, such as MRSA, exist in colonies that adhere to the surfaces of materials. The colonies often form coatings, known as biofilms, which protect them from antiseptics, disinfectants, and antibiotics.
"We have shown that when pitted against the ionic liquids we developed and tested, biofilms offer little or no protection to MRSA, or to seven other infectious microorganisms," Earle said.
Ionic liquids, just like the table salt sprinkled on food, are salts. They consist entirely of ions - electrically-charged atoms or groups of atoms.
However, unlike table salt, which has to be heated to over 800o C to become a liquid, the ionic liquid antibiofilm agents remain liquid at the ambient temperatures found in hospitals.
One of the attractions of ionic liquids is the opportunity to tailor their physical, chemical, and biological properties by building specific features into the chemical structures of the positively-charged ions (the cations), and/or the negatively-charged ions (the anions).
"Our goal is to design ionic liquids with the lowest possible toxicity to humans while wiping out colonies of bacteria that cause hospital acquired infections," Earle said.
The discovery is published in the scientific journal Green Chemistry.