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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 Naughty Bob (1004174) * on Sunday September 14, 2008 @02:58PM (#25000635)

    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."

    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...

    What could possibly be the researcher's motivation to say such a strange thing?

    *cough*She's the founder of a rival nanotech firm*cough*

    A coincidence, or fear mongering unscientific FUD? You decide!

  • Well.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @03:03PM (#25000697)

    Lets give people lead in small dosages from age of a baby to 18.

    Whoever we dont kill will make the rest of them immune.

    Or shall we say that boric acid with cockroaches will make boric acid resistant cockroaches? I think not.

    Some things in biology are terminal, regardless of dose

  • Old news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jade E. 2 (313290) <slashdot&perlstorm,net> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @03:09PM (#25000753) Homepage

    So you can use this new nano-titanium paint with a UV light and kill bacteria within 96 hours... or you can use the nano-silver paint [e-spaces.com] to kill them with no light needed in 2 hours. And it's been around for around 4 years.

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @03:12PM (#25000773)

    Actually that was the very forst thing I thought of. Basically the paint is harnessing photon energy to increase the availability of an energetic and highly reactive compound. It also kills bacteria. If some bacteria figures out how to live in the environment --- alkyline loving bacteria exist-- then it will have free food and no competition.

    Unlike anti-bacterial soaps, this food source is persistent so the bacteria can more quickly adapt.

  • Re:Well.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @03:17PM (#25000809)

    Lets give people lead in small dosages from age of a baby to 18. Whoever we dont kill will make the rest of them immune.

    No, but over a 600 year period, humans will have a greater resistance to lead.

  • by Teun (17872) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @03:32PM (#25000965) Homepage
    You are talking about a US problem, the too liberal, really uncontrolled, abuse of industrial strength disinfectants.

    The problem here is British, a historical lack of hygiene.

    The paint proposed could be a solution but I doubt whether they'll ever be able to recuperate the investments by lack of an export market...

    Another issue is that by now it's known nano particles are potentially in the same league as Asbestos fibres and spreading them on large surfaces might introduces other problems.

  • by localman (111171) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @03:40PM (#25001047) Homepage

    I realize that we face a pretty tough battle with certain "superbugs", but wouldn't one expect that as these bacteria adapt immunity to current antibiotics that they'll open up a weakness to something else? I suppose it's _possible_ that they're evolving to be stronger in a general sense, but usually I think of evolution as becoming more fit for one's environment -- which usually makes one less fit for another environment. Engineering is all about tradeoffs -- whether via intelligent design (our designs) or evolution (natures "design"). We created a new environment for them by introducing antibiotics, which they've adapted to. So we'll change the environment again.

    I understand this is not simple or straightforward, but I think the idea of "superbugs" is a bit of misnomer -- they're only super until we find the next weakness, and I imagine they'll always be one, even if it takes us a while to find it.

    Cheers.

  • by mrbooze (49713) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:16PM (#25001403)

    And yet the response is always "just use soap and water".

    So why aren't we getting soap-and-water-resistant bacteria? Presumably because such an evolved trait is too "expensive".

    A genetics professor of mine once explained that when I asked if bacteria can become resistant to alcohol. (As he was wiping his hands with Purell.) He said, yes, you can induce bacteria to evolve alcohol-resistance in a lab environment, but it's such an expensive adaptation that as soon as the alcohol exposure is reduced, the trait rapidly disappears again.

    So the real question would be, is any resistance encouraged by this nano-particle approach an expensive trait or not?

  • Just use bleach (Score:1, Interesting)

    by MoeDumb (1108389) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:31PM (#25001593)

    No bacteria will ever be able to adapt to BLEACH. Bleach remains the tried and true no-escape bacteria killer.

  • by grogo (861262) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @04:41PM (#25001723)
    Fears about developing resistance are probably misplaced: no bacterium is resistant to chlorine, and we don't worry about it happening. The environment in the paint described in the article would be similar.

    The reason antibiotic resistance develops is because antibiotics are highly targeted to a certain bacterial mechanism, usually one enzyme or protein, or a complex of enzymes working together. For obvious reasons, these have to be enzymatic mechanisms and proteins unique to bacteria, and not found in humans, primates, mammals, etc.

    On the other hand, chlorine kills everything, regardless of details of underlying biology. Presumably, this paint would do the same, unless they evolve some complex way of dealing with titanium dioxide, which is highly unlikely IMHO.

  • by wfstanle (1188751) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @05:26PM (#25002231)

    Who can say for sure what will happen? This brings to mind what happened to a strain of E. Coli. They were experimenting on a streptomycin resistant strain and they noticed something strange. Some colonies actually needed streptomycin to live! Evolution can do some really strange and unpredictable things.

  • by Amy Grace (1205236) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @06:50PM (#25003181)
    My understanding was always that soap just allowed water to rinse bacteria away more effectively than water alone, without actually killing the bacteria. Is that the sort of thing that bacteria can adapt to? (Genuinely curious, not being snotty.)
  • Wrong kind of logic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rui del-Negro (531098) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @08:50PM (#25004301) Homepage

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

    It's really not a matter of what "conditions inside the human body" are like. Conditions inside the human body don't normally include the presence of vast amounts of amoxicillin, for example. And yet, when you have a bacterial infection, taking amoxicillin tablets will get rid of them for you.

    Bacteria that aren't "adapted to the conditions inside the human body" aren't a threat to begin with, so they're irrelevant. The problem with antibiotic resistance is that, if you wipe out 99% of bacteria, leaving only the 1% that are resistant to that antibiotic, when those multiply to fill the space left by the ones you killed, you have as many bacteria as you started with, but now your antibiotic is useless.

    Not that the arguments in TFA make much sense, mind you, but saying that bacterial resistance is only an issue if they're "adapting to conditions inside the human body" is missing the point. Normal conditions inside the human body don't include antibiotic drugs.

  • Re:Well.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @08:56PM (#25004347)

    Boric Acid is a crystalline substance made up of thin and sharp angled plates. It's lethal against all insects because they have a waxy coating on their exoskeleton and the boric acid scrapes it away just from normal or cleaning activity. The insect dehydrates and dies. There's no chance to develop resistance, insects die within hours of exposure. It's not more widely used because it's too effective and long lasting. It often doesn't need reapplication for years or decades. It doesn't decay or become less potent overtime.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:42AM (#25010179)

    ... no bacterium is resistant to chlorine, and we don't worry about it happening... ...chlorine kills everything, regardless of details of underlying biology...

    Uh, dude, I consume a fair quantity of chlorine every day, and not only do I survive this, but the bacteria in my gut do also.

    And, I've seen living organisms flourish in chlorinated swimming pools. Everything from bacteria to dytiscidae to amphibians to human children.

    And finally, my spouse has been a water quality research scientist for 20 years, and I assure you that organisms evolving various types of resistance to chlorine is something they worry about.

  • Allergies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wfstanle (1188751) on Monday September 15, 2008 @10:26AM (#25010957)

    Not only that but there is some evidence that children need some exposure to germs for their immune system to develop properly. Without this exposure their immune systems start to react to normal items that are a part of their environment. Allergies for short. In extreme cases it can actually develop into an autoimmune disorder. I'm not saying that it is healthy to live in a pig sty.

    Aristotle said it best when he thought up the "Golden Mean".

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