Self-Sterilizing Polymer Proves Effective Against Drug-Resistant Pathogens

Researchers from North Carolina (NC) State University have found that an elastic polymer possesses broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties, allowing it to kill a range of viruses and drug-resistant bacteria in just minutes - including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). "We were exploring a different approach for creating antimicrobial materials when we observed some interesting behavior from this polymer and decided to explore its potential in greater depth," says Rich Spontak, PhD, co-corresponding author of a paper on the work and Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State. "And what we found is extremely promising as an alternate weapon to existing materials-related approaches in the fight against drug-resistant pathogens. This could be particularly useful in clinical settings - such as hospitals or doctor's offices - as well as senior-living facilities, where pathogen transmission can have dire consequences." The polymer's antimicrobial properties stem from its unique molecular architecture, which attracts water to a sequence of repeat units that are chemically modified (or functionalized) with sulfonic acid groups. "When microbes come into contact with the polymer, water on the surface of the microbes interacts with the sulfonic acid functional groups in the polymer - creating an acidic solution that quickly kills the bacteria," says Reza Ghiladi, PhD, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at NC State and co-corresponding author of the paper. "These acidic solutions can be made more or less powerful by controlling the number of sulfonic acid functional groups in the polymer." The work was published online on July 17, 2019 in Materials Horizon.
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