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Medicine Science

Plasma Device Kills Bacteria On Skin In Seconds 237

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-a-dry-cold dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "In medicine, plasma, the fourth state of matter, is already used for sterilizing surgical instruments; plasma works at the atomic level and is able to reach all surfaces, even the interior of hollow needle ends. Now the BBC reports that researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics have demonstrated a plasma device that can rid hands, feet, or even underarms of bacteria, including the hospital superbug MRSA, by creating cold atmospheric plasma that produces a cocktail of chemicals that kills bacteria but is harmless to skin. 'The plasma produces a series of over 200 chemical reactions that involve the oxygen and nitrogen in air plus water vapor — there is a whole concoction of chemical species that can be lethal to bacteria,' says Gregor Morfill. 'It's actually similar to what our own immune system does.' The team says that an exposure to the plasma of only about 12 seconds reduces the incidence of bacteria, viruses, and fungi on hands by a factor of a million — a number that stands in sharp contrast to the several minutes hospital staff can take to wash using traditional soap and water. Morfill says that the approach can be used to kill the bacteria that lead to everything from gum disease to body odor and that the prototype is scalable to any size and can be produced in any shape."
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Plasma Device Kills Bacteria On Skin In Seconds

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  • Re:Resistance? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:54PM (#30247642)

    In order to grow resistance, you have to leave a few alive and they have to have been left alive due in some part to something in their makeup causing them to be less vulnerable to the 'weapon'.

    In other words, something that lived only because it was never touched isn't going to evolve into the superbug.

    This eradicates the germs, they aren't being poisoned or having their chemical processes blocked (which is what most antibiotics do), it's ripping the germs apart at the atomic level. You don't develop a resistance to that.

  • by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:15PM (#30247834) Homepage

    That's just coincidental. Besides there were FIVE elements; Fire, water, earth, air and orange haired Ukrainian chick.

    Everyone knows that the fifth element is Heart and is represented by a South American with a monkey. Source [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Resistance? (Score:4, Informative)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:15PM (#30247840)

    In order to grow resistance, you have to leave a few alive and they have to have been left alive due in some part to something in their makeup causing them to be less vulnerable to the 'weapon'.

    In other words, something that lived only because it was never touched isn't going to evolve into the superbug.

    Your first sentence is true, the second is false. Position _can_ be a genetic advantage. "Something that lived only because it was never touched" happens all the time in biology, where the positional behaviour can be driven by genetics.

    Birds avoid high altitude, herds don't generally jump off cliffs, etc. The same happens on a more primitive level, too. People think about genetics and think it's like a human arms race or something, but all natural selection needs is surviving members of a species and it will encode _whatever_ information made them survive. Please remember, we're not talking about single instances of plasma sterilization processes, but basically waiting for a mutation to come along that happens to encode the information which in turn makes a significant contribution to the survival of the bacteria. It might not happen often, but if it happens a few times, then that strain will spread.

  • Re:Good bacteria? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:16PM (#30247842)

    The same thing that happens to them when you wash with antibacterial soap.

          One of the most overrated products in the world. Everyone thinks they're getting "anti-bacterial" protection.

          If you want "clean hands" while washing with antibacterial soap, make sure you do like we surgeons and wash each hand for 15 minutes. Even then you'll have critters living in your sweat glands... but your bacterial count will be very very low. For the regular "less time than it takes to sing the the birthday song" hand washing, anti-bacterial soap offers virtually no advantage over regular soap.

          Now hands up who spends 30 mins washing their hands every time they touch something.

  • Re:Resistance? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:22PM (#30247926)

    So how long until we see bacteria resistant to this device?

          About 20 years after we see bacteria resistant to current gamma ray and UV sterilization techniques. Don't hold your breath. Sterilize means no bacteria or spores survive. Do you think they chose 12 seconds "at random" or because "it sounds cool"? No, 12 seconds is the time (with a probably safety margin built in) at which cultures have shown repeatedly that all bacteria are dead.

  • by jpmorgan (517966) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:26PM (#30247972) Homepage

    Removing bulk material is comparatively easy, when needed. Washing to decontaminate, as is required frequently in hospitals, is a much more arduous task.

  • by sjames (1099) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:33PM (#30248036) Homepage

    These are not being suggested for in-home or preschool whole body sanitizing. They're suggested for doctors or nurses working on people with infectious diseases and potentially compromised immune systems. The problem of excessive clenliness isn't caused by washing up, it's caused by obsessively slathering your child in sanitizing gel whenever he might have (god forbid) touched something.

  • by Aggrajag (716041) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:29PM (#30248514)
    Sorry, a non-english speaker here- On a normal day I wash and disinfect my hands about sixty times.

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