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Medicine Science

Nanotech Paint To Kill Bacteria 208

Posted by kdawson
from the any-color-as-long-as-it's-white dept.
ColGraff points out reporting at Science News about the possibility of killing bacteria with paint. Scientists in the UK have found that high concentrations of titanium oxide nanoparticles in paint can kill bacteria by creating hydroxyl radicals when exposed to ordinary fluorescent light. Titanium dioxide is present in most white paint at concentrations of 30% or so, but not always at nanoparticle scale. The researchers found that an 80% concentration of TiO2 nanoparticles worked well to kill E. Coli bacteria. There is hope that the technique could be used against "superbugs," which are resistant to multiple antibiotics. A researcher not associated with the UK team pointed out the problem with developing products based on this idea: "[A]nything that survives and sticks around grows greater resistance... ultimately [antibiotic paint] will be its own worst enemy and the bacteria could grow to be even stronger."
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Nanotech Paint To Kill Bacteria

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  • by Zarhan (415465) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:00PM (#25000653)

    Tetrasodium-including soaps have already given a free boot camp for bacterias at home when folks have been buying the stuff thinking it somehow makes places healthier. There's a difference between clean and sterile environments, and clean is really all that you need.

  • by Rui del-Negro (531098) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:20PM (#25000833) Homepage

    A researcher [...] pointed out the problem [...]: "[A]nything that survives and sticks around grows greater resistance"

    If those were his words, then I guess this "researcher" needs to do a bit more research, perhaps starting with a book written by a certain "Charles Darwin".

    If the bacteria "stick around" it's because they are already resistant. Meaning they get to multiply, not to "grow greater resistance" (if they survived, their resistance is as "great" as it needs to be).

    All that antibiotics do (in the long run) is change the relative populations of different kinds of bacteria (eliminating the ones that aren't resistant, leaving more room and resources for the resistant ones to grow). They don't actively make bacteria "get stronger", as the quote suggests. It's not as if the bacteria send a sample of the antibiotic to their underground lab where bacterial boffins come up with an antidote. They don't even have proper immune systems.

    It's annoying when even "scientists" attribute some sort of "guiding intelligence" to the process of natural selection (or to individual bacteria, for that matter).

    P.S. - And yes, I'm aware of plasmids, but bacteria can't suddenly rush out to buy some when they need them [ * ], so it's still a matter of selection, not "self-improvement".

    [ * ] Unless they're playing Bioshock.

  • Re:Superbugs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jonbryce (703250) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:44PM (#25001099) Homepage

    In a hospital, yes. Because you are more likely to find people who don't have a working immune system, and, already being ill with something else, they are more likely to catch other things.

  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:46PM (#25001125)

    What a crazy thing to say. It's true, for sure, but has always been the case in the arms race against bacteria. It's what natural selection does...

    It's not crazy at all, nor is it FUD. What is crazy is ignoring antibacterial resistance. As TFA says, almost 100,000 become infected with antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in hospitals alone. And that's not a competitor saying that.

    Falcon

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:51PM (#25001153)

    A researcher not associated with the UK team pointed out the problem with developing products based on this idea: "[A]nything that survives and sticks around grows greater resistance... ultimately [antibiotic paint] will be its own worst enemy and the bacteria could grow to be even stronger."

    The "researcher" is full of shit. Evolution is about tradeoffs, not about "getting stronger"; after billions of years of evolution, bacteria are about as strong as they are going to get.

    Resistance to TiO2 paints would have to come at a price for bacteria: they need to shed some other resistance, grow more slowly, become more susceptible to phages, etc.

  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:54PM (#25001177)

    Tetrasodium-including soaps have already given a free boot camp for bacterias at home when folks have been buying the stuff thinking it somehow makes places healthier. There's a difference between clean and sterile environments, and clean is really all that you need.

    Unfortunately as the products in the market that has, and is labeled as having, antibiotic properties shows most people don't think clean is enough. When I clean I use baking soda, a citrus cleaner, and vinegar. I try to stay away from antibiotic products.

    Falcon

  • by orkysoft (93727) <orkysoftNO@SPAMmyrealbox.com> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:55PM (#25001189) Journal

    Also, there are enviroments that no bacteria can evolve to survive in, at least from their current state, either because it is just too hostile to life, or because it is too different from their usual environment that they can't adapt quickly enough, because it requires changing too many genes.

    The hostile environment option is probably not so nice for us either, you wouldn't want to heat your kitchen top to 3000 degrees to sterilize it, because that would be unpractical and dangerous. But no organism could survive that, their molecules would just crack. Incidentally, this is sort of what an autoclave [wikipedia.org] does. Make stuff hot enough to kill everything.

    The different environment option consists of altering the environment to one that is lethal to the microorganisms, but not in such an extreme way. If the change is fast and drastic enough, they won't have time to evolve resistance to it and will die. Microorganisms are sensitive to changes in e.g. temperature, acidity, and salinity of the environment. We humans have a tough skin that protects us from the environment, we have heating and cooling mechanisms, and regulate our bodies' acidity and salinity. Single-celled organisms do not have these luxuries, and are much more likely to perish if the environment changes drastically.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @05:02PM (#25001263)

    So we get bacteria who adapt to live in conditions that are totally unlike the conditions inside a human body.

    Was this supposed to be a bad thing?

    (Captcha: fitness. I swear, the thing has a mind of its own.)

  • by tmosley (996283) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @05:21PM (#25001463)
    Antibacterial soaps target specific molecules on the surface of bacterial membranes, or interfere with some metabolic process. This stuff directly oxidizes the bonds on the surface of the membrane. The only way to develop resistance would be to change the nature of the membrane dramatically.

    That would mean (by definition) that they have evolved into a new species. More than likely, they wouldn't be able to live inside the body anymore.

    I am working on developing a similar technology in my lab, one that I would argue is better, because it doesn't require light or UV.
  • by Szechuan Vanilla (1363495) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @08:01PM (#25003311)
    Because copper kills more than just microbes and, like other heavy metals, persists damn near forever as it moves up the food chain in higher and higher concentrations. Which leads me to this question: what else does this *nano*titanium stuff kill as it moves its way through the biosphere? Us?
  • by budgenator (254554) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @08:13PM (#25003421) Journal

    This paint attacks them via a much different mechanism than antibiotics do. When the TiO2 nanoparticles are moist and exposed to ultraviolet light it breaks down the water into hydrogen gas and a Hydroxide ion, The hydroxide ion is the same that is generated when lye or sodium hydroxide is added to water and it chemically burns the bacteria to death. I suspect this paint will not last very long because it will decompose on exposure to moisture and ultraviolet light, just like the bacteria it is killing.

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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