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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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  • by the_one(2) (1117139) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:43PM (#30247506)

    Do you remember the article on /. about how excessive cleanliness isn't all that good for you? Yeah...

  • Resistance? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dwedit (232252) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:43PM (#30247508) Homepage

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

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:46PM (#30247558)

    Don't know about you kid, but a doc sticking his hand into my insides is one of those situations where I'm willing to forego the 'benefit' of having my immune system stimulated by germs being introduced in the process and ask him to wash up.

  • Good bacteria? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Lode (1290856) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:47PM (#30247580)
    I thought a lot of the bacteria in and on humans were good ones, which are required to be fit and healthy and function properly. What happens to those?
  • Re:Resistance? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:50PM (#30247604) Homepage Journal

    Never. There is a difference between removing the easy bugs, and complete annihilation of all bacteria it come into contact with. Its like saying the if we had enough super novas humans would become resistant to them.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:55PM (#30247650)

    Do you remember that not everything applies to every situation? Because it doesn't.

    The article about excessive cleanliness was relating to raising children. Basically, our immune systems are like most things in us in that they need to be used to develop. As such children need to get sick to have a well functioning immune system as adults. You don't want to keep them in a sterile environment or they'll never develop defenses.

    However this is for hospitals. There you do want things as clean as possible. You have people who are in weakened states, their ability to fight off disease is less than normal. Also, you are bypassing a lot of their defenses in many cases. Your body is much more difficult to infect via the nose and mouth than directly via an open incision in your chest. As such, maximal clean is desirable.

    This is not an all or nothing thing. Being super clean is not always good or always bad, it depends on the situation. You wouldn't want to buy this for home and turn your house in to a sterile cleanroom from which you never let your kid out. They'd have no immune system and be very vulnerable in the world. However you do want this for hospitals to ensure that wounded and sick people aren't made further sick by an infection that they can't fight in a weakened state.

  • Re:sweet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by weav (158099) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:00PM (#30247698)

    A plasma bathtub would be good but what *I* really want is a plasma TOOTHBRUSH...

  • Re:Of course... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:04PM (#30247748) Homepage Journal
    It wont. There are way more effective ways if using the same amount of energy on a weapon.
  • Re:Good bacteria? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:41PM (#30251670)

    Its about time we have a decent solution instead of 15 mins of washing, where are the scientists on this one, 15 mins * few times a day * 1000000 surgens at their salary levels = billions of dollars wasted time.

          There's a problem with your accounting: you're forgetting to offset this by the cost of millions of infected patients staying longer at the hospital, the antibiotics used, and the inevitable fatalities.

          The standard infection rate for most wounds is around 10% in nature. Aseptic procedure (hand washing, sterile equipment, etc) has brought this down to under 1%. So tack on a week or so in the hospital (plus the fatalities) for 9% of all surgeries performed in the world, then compare it to hand washing.

          Not to mention the ethical side. We wash our hands because it's part of our "do no harm" credo.

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