Too little too late for Chipotle.
E. coli, a type of bacteria that can be found in the intestines of humans and animals, can cause severe diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain — and the infection is contagious. It can spread through contact with people or animals, as well as contaminated food and water, as the world recently saw with the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle.
Now, reporting in the peer-reviewed journal Small, researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have created a new material that can kill E. coli bacteria within 30 seconds.
"The global threat of drug-resistant bacteria has given rise to the urgent need for new materials that can kill and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria,” Professor Jackie Y. Ying, the Executive Director of IBN, said in a press release. “Our new antimicrobial material could be used in consumer and personal care products to support good personal hygiene practices and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.”
A team of researchers led by Yugen Zhang synthesized a chemical compound, called imidazolium oligomers, made up of molecules linked together in a chain. This chain-like structure helps the material penetrate the cell membrane and destroy the bacteria, effectively killing 99.7 percent of the E. coli within 30 seconds.
Conversely, antibiotics kill bacteria without destroying the cell membrane, which leaves the cell structure intact and raises the risk for new antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow.
"Our unique material can kill bacteria rapidly and inhibit the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” Zhang said in the release. This material is also safe for use because it carries a positive charge that targets the more negatively charged bacteria, without destroying red blood cells.”
The material comes in the form of a water-soluble white powder, and the researchers also found that it forms gels spontaneously when dissolved in alcohol. This means that the material could potentially be incorporated in alcoholic sprays used for sterilization in hospitals or homes.
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