Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have made a nanoscale coating for surgical equipment, hospital walls, and other surfaces, which removes methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
The coating is built on an enzyme found in nature.
"Here we have a system where the surface contains an enzyme that is safe to handle, doesn't appear to lead to resistance, doesn't leach into the environment, and doesn't clog up with cell debris. The MRSA bacteria come in contact with the surface, and they're killed," said Jonathan S. Dordick.
In tests, 100 percent of MRSA in solution were killed within 20 minutes of contact with a surface painted with latex paint laced with the coating.
Unlike other antimicrobial coatings, it is toxic only to MRSA, does not rely on antibiotics, and does not leach chemicals into the environment or become clogged over time.
It can be washed repeatedly without losing effectiveness and has a dry storage shelf life of up to six months.
"We asked ourselves - were there examples in nature where enzymes can be exploited that have activity against bacteria?" Dordick said.
The answer was yes and the team quickly focused on lysostaphin, an enzyme secreted by non-pathogenic Staph strains, harmless to humans and other organisms, capable of killing Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA, and commercially available.
"Lysostaphin has evolved over hundreds of millions of years to be very difficult for Staphylococcus aureus to resist," Ravi Kane said.
"It's an interesting mechanism that these enzymes use that we take advantage of," he added.
The research has been published in the July edition of the journal ACS Nano.