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Medicine Science

Plasma Device Kills Bacteria On Skin In Seconds 237

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 garg0yle ( 208225 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:41PM (#30247488) Journal

    But I find it interesting that according to ancient alchemy there were four "elements" (fire, water, earth, and air), and according to modern science there are four "states of matter" (plasma, liquid, solid, and gaseous).

  • by Aggrajag ( 716041 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:45PM (#30247538)
    As a nurse I would welcome this as I have to wash and disinfect my hands several times a day.
  • by Painted ( 1343347 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:49PM (#30247598) Homepage
    There was a scene on Babylon 5 where Sheridan and Garibaldi are killing time in a public restroom waiting for someone to leave (yeah, a Sci-Fi show that admits people go to the bathroom!), and Sheridan is shown "washing" his hands under what appears to be a disinfecting device...

    Funny how you can often find references in fiction to things that later become reality...
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland@NOSpAm.yahoo.com> on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:52PM (#30247620) Homepage Journal

    Wouldn't you still need to wash hands to remove the larger bit of stuff stuck to your hands? Bacteria is the primary reason why you need to wash your hands all the time, but not the only one.

  • a true "wtf" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cinnamon colbert ( 732724 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:02PM (#30247722) Journal

    this belongs on the science equivalent of www.thedailywtf.com
    plasma = uncontrolled mix of highly reactive chemicals
    highly reactive chemicals = damage to skin at some level
    thus we have that old item, the therapeutic index roughy ratio of harm to good
    highly reactive chemcials = bugs getting resistant
    how ? learning to live deeper in the skin (bad for you)
    learning to make enzymes that deto the highly reactive chemicals (radical quenchers like SOD)
    learning to elaborte low molecular weight or high molecular weight (biofilm) molecules that sop up the highly reactive chemicals, so it takes a much higher conc of plasma

    PS: MRSA is actually a :"feeble" bug - we know this because there have been many, very carefull studies that compare patients with MRSA to patients with MSSA (methicillin sensitive S Aureus)
    The finding is that petients who get MRSA infections are sicker then patients who get MSSA infections.
    To my mind, this means that the genetic changes that make S aureus resistant also make the bug less healthy in general, so it has a difficult time getting established in th blood or in the joints or urinary tract.
    And this is consistant with what is known (alot) about the gene mecA and how it acts.

    also, there are new antibiotics approved in canada and switzerland that are active against mrsa - ceftobiprole

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:12PM (#30247810)

    If it's germ free and not large enough to be visible, does it matter?

          It does if you're a surgeon. There's something called the foreign body response [wikipedia.org], and we've seen it happen even with particles of the STERILE talc they line some surgical gloves with to make them easier to put on. Problems aren't only caused by bacteria. Depending on the person's immune response, virtually anything can cause a life-threatening reaction to normally "inert" things like nylon suture or titanium rods/sutures. Things like dirt and human hair are more likely to provoke a reaction.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:24PM (#30247952) Homepage
    Actually, there were 5 elements according to Aristole: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Aether. The fifth element only appears in the spheres beyond Earth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle#The_five_elements [wikipedia.org]. Post Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, when it became apparent that objects in space were likely made of the same substances as other elements Aether was dropped. This didn't last long, since the classical elemental theory was already in decline. Robert Boyle's work in The Sceptical Chymist published in 1661 effectively ended the idea of the then four element theory. So four elements was really only an idea with widespread appeal to scientists and thinkers for about 50 years.
  • Re:Resistance? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:41PM (#30248106) Homepage Journal

    It will denature any protein at all. It doesn't harm the surface of your skin only because that is already composed of dead cells. Bacteria are about as likely to evolve resistance to fire or concentrated nitric acid.

  • by nacturation ( 646836 ) * <<moc.liamg> <ta> <noitarutcan>> on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:58PM (#30248230) Journal

    And four compass directions: North, South, East, and West. The bible mentions the four corners of the (flat, square) Earth too. All these references to four! Before you know it, your post will get modded to Score: 4, Interesting.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.