Bacteria-Killing Paint Could Stop Contagions in Hospitals and Schools

November 11, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Man painting a brick wall green
Photo credit: Ian Muttoo/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Paint the town disease-free.

Doctors and nurses could have a new sidekick to help out with preventing unhealthy germs and bacteria from spreading in public places: paint. Sherwin-Williams developed an impressive new brand of antimicrobial paint, called Paint Shield, that can kill infectious bacteria after just 2 hours of exposure. It’s a germaphobe’s dream come true.

The issue of disease-spreading bacteria in hospitals is worse than you might think. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that, on any given day, about 1 in 25 hospital patients contract a healthcare-associated infection.

Paint Shield can reportedly kill 99.9 percent of bugs, including those responsible for E. coli and staph infections (Staphylococcus aureus). Not only do the existing infectious bacteria get killed off, but the microbial paint also inhibits the future growth of common bacteria. Plus, the paint can be effective for up to four years, so it’s not something that maintenance will have to constantly renovate.

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"Paint Shield is one of the most significant technological breakthroughs in our nearly 150 year history of innovation," Chris Connor, the chairman and chief executive of Sherwin-Williams, said in a press release. "By killing infectious pathogens on painted surfaces, Paint Shield is a game-changing advancement in coatings technology."

Microbiologists have been working with Sherwin-Williams to produce the paint, and if all goes well, it will be available by next year. It’s intended for more large-scale use to promote cleanliness in hospitals, schools, gyms, day care centers, and cruise ships, but perhaps germaphobes will opt to repaint their houses with Paint Shield as well. Plus, the company announced that the paint will be available in a whopping 590 colors — killing germs in style.

Paint Shield isn’t the only development in the battle against infectious bacteria. The CNET reported that Corning came out with an antimicrobial version of Gorilla glass to replace conventional glass on public ATMS, which often become cold and flu hubs in the wintertime. Interestingly, some teens also invented a glowing door handle that zaps itself free of yucky bathroom germs.

Paint Shield still has to be tested in real-world settings, but hopefully it proves to help keep germs and bacteria contained. Dr. Anthony Harris, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland, told ABC that when it comes to patients with a highly resistant bacteria,  "20 to 30 percent of the time [the patient's room] is contaminated."

"These types of inventions are desperately needed…to prevent transmission [of resistant bacteria,]" Harris continued. But he said that the paint needs to be “tested in real world setting before widespread adoption."

Hopefully in the future it will be as simple as coating hospitals and schools with bacteria-killing paint to prevent infections and diseases from spreading. Not to mention, Sherwin-Williams says it’s the first microbe-killing paint to be registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency. Yay for technological advancements that don’t kill the planet.

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