LONDON: Scientists have developed a textile material that disinfects itself, an advance that can help fight deadly hospital-acquired infections.
By incorporating the specially-engineered textile in a device designed to be used on hospital doors instead of the traditional aluminium door plate - the part of the door that people push to open it - they aim to bolster hand hygiene.
Researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK developed the device known as Surfaceskins.
Hospital doors are recognised as a key weak link in hygiene because of the number of times people touch them.
It takes just one person with dirty hands to pass through a door to put everyone else who follows at risk of cross contamination.
Surfaceskins antibacterial door pads work by dispensing a small quantity of alcohol gel onto the pad when it is pushed, to disinfect the surface ready for the next person to use the door.
This low-cost device, which incorporates three separate non-woven textiles is designed to be replaced after seven days or one thousand pushes, whichever comes sooner, researchers said.
The device is fitted into a plastic holster which is attached to the door. Surfaceskins contain a reservoir of alcohol gel and a membrane with tiny valves that dispense the gel onto the surface where it is pressed when opening a door, self-disinfecting it within seconds.
In the study, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, both the Surfaceskins and control aluminium door plates were inoculated with bacteria at levels found on the hands of hospital staff.
Researchers found that the Surfaceskins door pads were more effective than standard door plates over seven days in reducing the levels of three bacteria that commonly cause hospital-acquired infections: S aureus, E coli and E faecalis.
"Our results suggest that Surfaceskins door pads can help to reduce the contamination of doors by microbes," said Mark Wilcox, a professor of Medical Microbiology at thew University of Leeds.
"They offer a new way to reduce the risk of the spread of bacteria and viruses in hospital environments and other settings where frequent contact with doors could undermine hand hygiene," Wilcox added.
Surfaceskins address a definite need, in a simple, effective and low-cost way. Designed to provide protection in many high-risk situations, the global market for Surfaceskins is immense, researchers said.