‘Roughing up’ surfaces with microscopic bumps so they resemble shark skin can prevent them harbouring bacteria, according to scientists.
In tests, the patented micropattern arrangement, named Sharklet, reduced colonisation by the MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) superbug by 94%.
The bacteria were less able to attach to the textured surface than they were to a smooth one. Sharklet also fared better than copper, a leading antimicrobial material.
The research is published in the online journal Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control.
Dr Ethan Mann, a research scientist at the US company Sharklet Technologies, said: “The Sharklet texture is designed to be manufactured directly into the surfaces of plastic products that surround patients in hospital, including environmental surfaces as well as medical devices.
“Sharklet does not introduce new materials or coatings - it simply alters the shape and texture of existing materials to create surface properties that are unfavourable for bacterial contamination.”
Sharklet mimics the surface of shark skin that is covered by tiny tooth-like structures called denticles.
Dr Mann’s team compared the ability of two hospital bug strains, MRSA and MSSA (methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus) to contaminate Sharklet and smooth surfaces, as well as a surface covered by copper alloy.
Sneezing was simulated by using a paint sprayer to spread bacteria on 10 samples of each surface.
“Shark skin seems highly adapted to resist attachment of living organisms such as algae and barnacles”
Dr Ethan Mann
To mimic infectious patients touching surfaces, velveteen cloth was exposed to bacteria before being placed on test surfaces for 10 seconds.
Surfaces were also immersed in bacterial solution for an hour and then rinsed and dried to simulate the effect of spills.
Compared with the smooth “control” surface, the Sharklet micropattern reduced transmission of MSSA by 97%.
It also held onto 94% less MRSA than the smooth surface, while copper harboured 80% less.
“Shark skin itself is not an antimicrobial surface; rather it seems highly adapted to resist attachment of living organisms such as algae and barnacles,” said Dr Mann.
“Shark skin has a specific roughness and certain properties that deter marine organisms from attaching to the skin surface. We have learned much from nature in building this material texture for the future.”
- Read the full study paper in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control
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