A new cost effective technology that permanently prevents the growth of bacteria on both natural and synthetic fibers has been introduced by Nano Textile Ltd., which claims it can prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infections and reduce cross contamination between patients and medical staff, thereby significantly reducing secondary infections.
The technology transforms any readymade fabric into antibacterial textile by embedding zinc-oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles onto the fabric. ZnO is known for its antibacterial properties and has been approved by the FDA as safe. Nanoparticles of ZnO eradicates even antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA.
The technology, which has been patented in the U.S. and Israel, and is awaiting approval in Europe and Asia was developed by Aharon Gedanken of the chemistry department at Bar Ilan University, Israel, with funding of €12 million ($13.5 millon) from the EU’s FP7 program.
It is based on sonochemistry, an effective method to coat surfaces with nanoparticles. ZnO nanoparticles are formed in the solution via a sonochemical process and subsequently to their creation they are thrown to the textile’s surface. During the sonochemical process, molecules undergo a chemical reaction due to the application of powerful ultrasound radiation (20KHz-10MHz).
The physical phenomenon responsible for the sonochemical process is acoustic cavitation. During the acoustic cavitation, bubbles are formed in the liquid, and continuously grow, until they reach a maximum size in which they collapse. When a bubble collapses near a solid surface, microjets of the liquid are formed moving at a very high speed (>500 m/sec). These microjets throw the newly-formed NPs (ZnO) at the surface of the substrate (the textile) at such a high speed that they strongly adhere to the surface.
The technology enables the cost-effective creation of antibacterial fabrics using any desired fabric, without changing its appearance, since ZnO is colorless. In addition, the fabrics can withstand up to 65 wash cycles at 92°C and up to 100 wash cycles at 75°C, far beyond the standard requirements of medical facilities, without losing their antibacterial properties. The process and these findings have been described in an article published by Gedanken’s lab in the scientific journal Cellulose.
Bacterial infections acquired during hospitalization are a major cause of illness and death. The WHO estimated that over 500 million people worldwide are infected during hospitalization, a high percentage of which are caused by highly resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria.
The infections not only take a toll of approximately 14 million lives worldwide per year, but also pose a significant financial burden by increasing hospitalization by eight days on average per affected patient. Hospital related costs in Europe alone are estimated at $12 billion per year.
“The main advantages of the technology is that it can apply anti-bacterial properties to any kind of readymade fabric, the treatment does not at all alter the fabric’s color, and the entire process is extremely cost-effective,” Aharon Gedanken said. “In a hospital setting, for example, our technology can be used for inserting anti-bacterial characteristics to staff uniforms, patients’ pajamas, linen, blankets and curtains, in order to significantly reduce morbidity and mortality and in parallel reduce hospitalization costs.”
Nano Textile won the second place at the China Medical Tech Competition that took place in May in Tel Aviv. Twenty startups out of nearly 100 applicants participated in the event, out of which the judges selected three for their innovative medical technology. The selected companies will participate in a final competition in China in August.