From Our 2009 Archives

Super-Strong Paint Kills Superbugs

New Super-Paint Also Kills Mold, Fungi, and Viruses

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

April 16, 2009 -- A team of South Dakota scientists has invented a new super-paint strong enough to kill superbugs that infect hospital patients and kill thousands of people annually, says a new report.

The paint, which is designed to decorate and disinfect homes, businesses, and health care settings, kills disease-causing bacteria, mold, fungi, and viruses, according to research published in the American Chemical Society's journal, Applied Materials & Interfaces.

University of South Dakota researchers Yuyu Sun, PhD, and Zhengbing Cao, PhD, say the paint is the most powerful to date and shows promise as a killer of antibiotic-resistant microbes that infect hospital surfaces and cause about 88,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.

The researchers say the paint provides "potent antimicrobial activities" against dangerous bugs, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which has become a major problem in health care settings and the community.

"When any building or furnishing is damp for more than 48 hours, mold may grow," the scientists write in the article. "Water damage due to roof or plumbing leakage, floods, and poor drainage of rainwater runoff or landscape irrigation can significantly promote mold growth."

Mold, in addition to causing physical damage to building materials, also can sensitize and produce allergic responses in some individuals. Mold exposure, the scientists write, also can cause serious fungal infections.

"Another increasingly important application of antimicrobial paints is to help control the wide spreading of health care-associated infections (HAIs) and community-acquired infections," they write. "HAIs, which are increasingly associated with multi-drug resistant pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococcus cause an estimated 88,000 deaths and $4.5 billion in excess healthcare costs in the United States."

The new paint won't completely eliminate transmission of such infections, they say, but has the potential to significantly reduce it.

According to the researchers, antimicrobial paints in stores now provide protection against only a narrow range of disease-causing microorganisms.

The new paint stays potent for extended periods and can be recharged with a simple chlorination process, the authors write in their report.

SOURCES: News release, American Chemical Society. Zhengbing, C. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, Feb. 25, 2009; vol 1: pp 494-504.

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