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Science Idle

Scientists Put an End To Smelly Socks 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the never-do-laundry-again dept.
athe!st writes "A new anti-microbial treatment that can make clothing — including smelly socks — permanently germ-free has been developed by US scientists. In a paper published in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, Dr Jason Locklin and his colleagues state that the treatment kills a wide range of dangerous pathogens, including staph, strep, E. coli, pseudomonas and acinetobacter."
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Scientists Put an End To Smelly Socks

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  • Great... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:48PM (#36675994)
    another way to breed resistant strains of dangerous pathogens.
    • Re:Great... (Score:4, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:51PM (#36676026) Homepage Journal

      depends on how it works.

      For example, alcohol based hand sanitizers can not be a vector for a 'resistant' germ.

      • Yes, Great... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What makes you think microbes cannot be resistant to alcohol? Some microbes literally shit alcohol.

        Unicellular life has a much easier time evolving than we do. Lining up 3 trillion cells to work together at all amazes me, & I'm doing that right now!

        • Re:Yes, Great... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by buback (144189) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:09PM (#36676230)

          Since alcohol literally dissolves cell membranes, I'd be pretty impressed if they evolved past that impediment. Also remember that those bacteria that 'shit' alcohol are eventually killed off by all that 'shit'. That's why you can't brew vodka, but distill it instead.

          • FYI, it's yeast (a member of the fungi kingdom), not bacteria. Bacteria can spoil a good brew.

          • by Surt (22457)

            I can't see what the impediment there is. It seems like there could be a lot of relatively simple modifications of the cell wall structure that would block alcohol. Why couldn't a bug by chance develop a plastic coating? Plastics are chemically pretty simple, resist alcohol, and can be made from stuff available to bugs.

            • Re:Yes, Great... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by ImprovOmega (744717) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:45PM (#36676650)
              Because it would have to evolve a plastic coating that still magically performed all of the functions of the original cell membrane. It would be kind of like saying why can't human evolve a plastic coating over their lungs to defend against inhaling acid fumes. You would block what was killing you at the expense of ...well...killing you in a different and horrible way.
              • by buback (144189)

                And if it did survive, it would have to evolve an entirely new way to infect cells. it would become so different from what we see now that it might not even "want" be infectious anymore.

            • by sjames (1099)

              While I have seen plastics act as an osmotic filter, and I have seen other plastic like materials that can perform gas exchange, I have not seen one manage both at once, and certainly not while maintaining a surface tension and selectively passing larger molecules AND acting as a barrier to alcohol.

          • I'd be pretty impressed if they evolved past that impediment

            - Mycobacteria (as those causing Tuberculosis) have thick reinforced waxy cell walls, which can withstand alcohol, for example.
            - P. Aeruginosas also protect themselves (polysaccharids and biofilms) and have evolved to be able to digest quite a lot of organic compound. They'll resist alcohol, and try drinking it too.
            - not a living bacteria, but lots of bacterial spores can withstand a crazy vast amount of abuse, and stay unharmed (that the whole point of spores).

            And for whatever other physical hard-limit you

        • Re:Yes, Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:38PM (#36676566)

          Some microbes literally shit alcohol.

          Such organisms consume food and excrete alcohol until the ambient concentration is too high for them to tolerate any longer. After years of selective breeding some yeasts have been produced that can tolerate up to about 22% ABV but it doesn't seem to go much higher than that.

          How many days could you take a shit in your living room until you could no longer tolerate it? I doubt any amount of evolutionary pressure could enable you to swim in a diarrhea swimming pool.

          • by adolf (21054)

            How many days could you take a shit in your living room until you could no longer tolerate it? I doubt any amount of evolutionary pressure could enable you to swim in a diarrhea swimming pool.

            Perhaps not evolutionary pressure, but I for one would be perfectly happy to swim some laps in a diarrhea swimming pool for the correct amount of monetary pressure.

            Which leads to an interesting philosophical question: Does this mean that I am better-adapted than yeast, or does it mean the opposite?

            • by Columcille (88542)
              Enabling is not the same as desiring. How long would you survive such an environment?
            • by TubeSteak (669689)

              Which leads to an interesting philosophical question: Does this mean that I am better-adapted than yeast, or does it mean the opposite?

              It means neither, though I'd be willing to argue that it means the opposite.
              >24% alcohol will kill all but a few non-commercially available yeasts.
              Unlike yeast, you are capable of swimming around in 100% shit, even though you choose not to.

          • by mortonda (5175)

            I had a navy friend who was, fortunately, the 2nd smallest person on the ship. The guy who beat him out for being the smallest had to dive into the septic tank to unplug the drain. Evolutionary pressure, no. Navy pressure, yes.

          • by Greyfox (87712)
            How many days could you take a shit in your living room until you could no longer tolerate it? I doubt any amount of evolutionary pressure could enable you to swim in a diarrhea swimming pool.

            You haven't met my room mate...

          • by EdIII (1114411)

            How many days could you take a shit in your living room until you could no longer tolerate it?

            The answer is 12.

            I doubt any amount of evolutionary pressure could enable you to swim in a diarrhea swimming pool.

            No.... but the pressure of the person behind you pushing you in and your desire to survive at all costs would cause you to swim. Besides, at this point your crapping in your living room. Why do you care about the swimming pool?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            How many days could you take a shit in your living room until you could no longer tolerate it?

            Well, I started watching Transformers that one time, so I guess it would be about 15 minutes...

          • Yes, ethanol is not just for drinking, but can also be used as a fuel and chemical reagent. Producing more alcohol resistant yeast is a multimillion (if not billion) dollar industry. There are various ways microorganisms can develop resistance to alcohol. Increase membrane stability (eg increase cholesterol content), increase the ability to cope with oxidation stress (upregulate heat shock proteins, DNA repair enzymes, anti-oxidant producing enzymes), increase the ability to turn alcohol into something less

        • by Odinlake (1057938)

          What makes you think microbes cannot be resistant to alcohol? Some microbes literally shit alcohol.

          You shit shit, but can you live in shit???

          • by Odinlake (1057938)

            You shit shit, but can you live in shit???

            Sorry, I realize that looked superficially like trolling, but I meant it as a fairly serious analogy - why should we think that an organism can live in its own excretion?

        • by sjames (1099)

          Some microbes literally shit alcohol.

          And in spite of that, they eventually poison themselves in a closed environment. That's why you can only get proof so high without distilling or fortifying in spite of centuries of effort by brewers to improve their yeast.

          Certainly single celled life can evolve surprising levels of resistance to various noxious environments, but there are limits. At the edge of those limits, extremophiles must go to such extremes of adaptation that they can no longer compete in a less hostile environment.

        • When friends taste my homebrew, they sometimes ask me how I got the alcohol in there. I tell them that the yeast eats the sugars, pisses alcohol and farts carbon dioxide. For some reason, that I can't fathom, they loose their appetite for my brew at that point.
        • by sFurbo (1361249)
          Even if they did evolve to survive 70% alcohol, they probably wouldn't be fit to survive in the human body any more.
      • Why not? Someday germs might love getting drunk.
      • by LocalH (28506)

        No, but overuse of them can lessen our immune system's ability to practice on the nastiness that exists in the world. I would not recommend anything alcohol-based to be used with children who's development is still in progress.

        • by mcsqueak (1043736)

          I would not recommend anything alcohol-based to be used with children who's development is still in progress.

          So you're saying I shouldn't be giving my toddler bottles filled with whiskey then?

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Until the microbes start building EV suits. At that stage we'll be doomed.

  • for my ugg boots.

    They smell pretty bad and it grosses the fiancee out.

    • by Lifyre (960576)

      There is a time tested method to solve this problem. Burn them and buy footwear that doesn't get ruined the first time you wear it in a winter storm.

    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      Freeze them. Ideally you don't want to use the freezer you store food in but it works in a pinch. Leave them in there for about two or three days and they should smell better. If that doesn't work, buy good leather shoes (or boots) so they can breathe.

    • by brusk (135896)
      Put them in the freezer (in a plastic bag) for a few days. Most of the bacteria that cause odors can't survive cold temperatures.
    • by kno3 (1327725)
      Tell her to man up and get used to guys smelly feet.
  • Until the resistant variety comes along, that is.

    What's wrong with just washing the damn things?

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      What's wrong with just washing the damn things?

      It would be prohibitively expensive, and it probably wouldn't work. You would need to wash your scrubs etc. every day, immediately before starting your shift. If you washed them after your shift, then hung them up or put them in a locker, they could potentially be contaminated again. You can also pick up a pathogen when working with one patient, then carry it on your clothes to the next. If this spray makes garments permanently resistant to pathogens, even that would stop happening. It could cut down nosoco

      • Sorry, but I was just talking about socks there. When it comes to white coats, why not try paper? You could impregnate it with this chemical and recycle or just throw into an incinerator after use.
        • by PCM2 (4486)

          I dunno, I kinda doubt busy professionals who spent years in medical school to get where they are would appreciate having to wear Tyvek clothes all day, when there are other solutions.

          I wasn't even thinking about the sock angle, because I read TFA and it says almost nothing about that. This compound's main application is going to be in healthcare settings.

      • we could have kicked unemployment down by a couple ten-thousand by hiring people to wash scrubs and keep things clean, and at the same time reduced bacteria in hospitals, which would have prevented countless infections (actually not countless, some people have done studies on this type of thing).

        but no. fuck that. lets fire all the janitors and clotheswashers and invent weird new chemical experiments that probably might work maybe, because some investment banker needs to pay-off the maserati he wrecked on h

  • by rednip (186217) <rednip@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:48PM (#36676002) Journal
    Hospital bed sheets would be my first use.
    • When it comes to hospital sheets I'd rather have a boil wash, followed by another one if possible.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Of course, but along with that, sheets treated with this could continue to kill germs and bacteria while in use. Anyone who suggest this is a replacement is simply ignorant.

        • I freely admit I'm pretty ignorant of microbiology but given the choice I'd wager heavily that boiling water is more efficacious than than a chemical treatment. In fact, I'd go even further and also bet that adapting to such high temperatures will take a lot longer for staph. and it's ilk - we've been using it for quite some time successfully after all.

          I once attended a lecture about the many useful attributes of brass (including its bacteriostatic properties) but I still wouldn't recommend it over regular

          • by PCM2 (4486)

            I freely admit I'm pretty ignorant of microbiology but given the choice I'd wager heavily that boiling water is more efficacious than than a chemical treatment.

            We'll agree on "at least as effective," but the problem is that you can't have your hospital staff lounge in vats of boiling water while they deal with patients. It's not like a scalpel where you use it once and throw it into the autoclave. Healthcare workers wear their garments all day.

            • ... but the problem is that you can't have your hospital staff lounge in vats of boiling water while they deal with patients.

              I could volunteer a couple of such lounges for a clinical trial. Purely in the name of research, you understand.

  • by Moof123 (1292134) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:49PM (#36676014)

    Am I the only one who has grown cautious of putting chemicals on my skin, in close contact, for many hours of the day? We'll either end up with a super bug or foot cancer...

  • Much like antibiotics does this not help create resistant germs and ultimately makes some of those dangerous pathogens harder to kill? Even more so since it is constantly in contact with and battle against said pathogens?

    • Depends on how it works. If it's a vector that some germs can survive, like with antibiotics, then there's a chance for a new generation to be born resistant to it. If it's a physical vector that is incompatible with germ life like how alcohol basically dissolves bacterial cell membranes, then no.

      It's like how the human population can become resistant to a particular virus, but no one is resistant to a bullet through the heart.
  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:57PM (#36676096)

    Why they don't want to live in the clothing, maybe they know something you don't.

  • Scientists have created a thing, made out of atoms, that can PERMANENTLY eliminate any possibility of other atoms being arranged in such a fashion as to inconvenience me? Huzzah! An infinite number of solutions posted to problems seemingly thought to be unsolvable in polynomial time! Mathematics has been defeated! Long live ...US SCIENTISTS!

    morons.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      You , sir, are the moron. If you had an IQ big enough to be able to click on the link, you would have noted it's many uses in killing things that want to kill you or at the very least, give you a very miserable few weeks. The socks bit is a fringe benefit and a headline to grab people attention.
      Because you are clearly simpleton I'll explain it is a a way you cam understand: This is a good thing.

      • by Kingrames (858416)
        The words "Permanently germ-free" should never be promised on anything larger than an atom. You show me a germ-free surface, I'll show you a lazy germ.
        • You know how some stop lights have those little spikes on them the keep birds from landing on them and pooping on cars below? I wouldn't say those stop lights are bird free due to "lazy birds". I suspect for this to work at all it has to rely on making the environment physically unsuitable for micro-organisms in a similar fashion. I would like to say I know this, but the article is pretty stingy on details.
      • He could be referring to the last link. Useful arrangement of atoms sounds about right.

        "Locklin's technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry."

  • Vinegar and rubbing alcohol will do a fine job of creating a microbe-free zone, but you might smell a bit more like sour wine than you'd like.

  • How it works (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:16PM (#36676310)

    I normally don't post on slashdot, but since this is related to my field (I am a chemist) and there have been a lot of comments about how bad this must be because of the possibility of building resistance, I felt obligated to clarify this after looking into it.

    As far as anti-microbial substances work, this is about as simple as it gets. All bacteria have cell membranes consisting of a lipid bilayer - it's basically two layers of negatively-charged water-loving stuff attached to a fatty part in the middle that stays away from water. This treatment uses a polymer that can pass through the cell membrane, with positively-charged bits making it inside the membrane. The positively-charged parts on the polymer attract the negatively-charged parts on the membrane and cause it to come apart enough for the cell to die.

    Many other antibiotics are based on small molecules that interrupting some metabolic process of bacteria. Bacteria develop resistance by making enzymes that will break down these small molecules once inside the cell. This new method attacks the outside of the cell directly, not something inside the cell. It wouldn't be impossible for bacteria to develop immunity to this, but it would be comparably very improbable.

    • No wonder you don't normally post on Slashdot. You demonstrate a reasonable comprehension of the concepts discussed and furthermore can explain your thoughts in perfectly comprehensible English.

      This is a pretty lonely place for folks like you.
  • While this might eliminate cleaning due to bacteria, this won't resolve the issue of dirt built up.

    As to socks, just wear sandals :)

    • by kimvette (919543)

      Sandals invariably reek though, requiring frequent applications of tea tree oil or febreeze.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:23PM (#36676400) Journal

    47 comments and no one noticed that the link was broken? Sure there's a BBC link, but it tells you exactly nothing. Doesn't even tell you what it is. I know slashdotters seldom read the articles, but come on.

    • by Chuckstar (799005)

      LOL... I was gonna make the same comment. Took me 30 seconds to log in first, or I'd have beaten you to it.

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:55PM (#36676748) Homepage

    Okay here's a semi-secret which shouldn't be so secret. I use something called PitRok [amazon.co.uk] Crystal Deodorant (perhaps try this [amazon.com] if you're US based), but any Ammonium Alum based deodorant will be good. It's meant for the armpits, but I find it works good on feet too. 5 stars on Amazon.co.uk by almost everyone including me.

    I only wish I knew about this sooner. It's completely odorless and nonsticky, which is great, but also lasts over a year (you wet its hard crystal tip and apply). Anybody who benefits from this, feel free to buy me a beer or 10 according to how generous you feel.

  • tfa doesn't mention if they are using silver nanonparticles or no but a lot of times the side effects of these wonder chemicals are worse than the malady.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091028114025.htm [sciencedaily.com]

  • How long until this stuff makes it's way into panties?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Faster than anyone around here will.
  • I thought it said Scientists Put an End To Smelly *ock. (rhymes with sock)
  • And its been bothering me. I mean have you seen those hand gels people are always slathering on? They seem to forget the .1% that it doesnt kill. Its like, congrats, you just made your hands a cess pool by removing all the competition a microbe that is already resistant to our best efforts would normally have! The only thing that nears that level of stupidity would be preemptively dosing all our herd animals with anitbiotics by default. But thats so insanely reckless that theres no way wed ever allow it. .
  • Wool does this naturally.... it's microscopic physical structure is such that bacteria has a difficult time attaching to it physically. When I switched to wool socks I permanently eliminated smelly feet, and they're much more comfortable even in hot weather. Once again, scientists develop a "novel" solution to a problem nature solved much more elegantly long ago. Wool literally evolved for the explicit purpose in which humans use clothing for: keeping mammals comfortable and healthy in a wide range of clima

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