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Killer silk: Making silk fibers that kill anthrax and other microbes in minutes

Date:
March 14, 2012
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
A simple, inexpensive dip-and-dry treatment can convert ordinary silk into a fabric that kills disease-causing bacteria -- even the armor-coated spores of microbes like anthrax -- in minutes. Researchers describe a range of potential uses for this new killer silk, including make-shift curtains and other protective coatings that protect homes and other buildings in the event of a terrorist attack with anthrax.

A simple, inexpensive dip-and-dry treatment can convert ordinary silk into a fabric that kills disease-causing bacteria -- even the armor-coated spores of microbes like anthrax -- in minutes, scientists are reporting in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. They describe a range of potential uses for this new killer silk, including make-shift curtains and other protective coatings that protect homes and other buildings in the event of a terrorist attack with anthrax.

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Rajesh R. Naik and colleagues explain that in adverse conditions, bacteria of the Bacillus species, which includes anthrax, become dormant spores, enclosing themselves in a tough coating. These spores can survive heat, radiation, antibiotics and harsh environmental conditions, and some have sprung back to life after 250 million years. Certain chemicals -- most popular among which are oxidizing agents, including some chlorine compounds -- can destroy bacterial spores, and they have been applied to fabrics like cotton, polyester, nylon and Kevlar. These treated fabrics are effective against many bacteria, but less so against spores. The researchers tried a similar coating on silk to see if it could perform better against these hardy microbes.

They developed a chlorinated form of silk, which involves soaking silk in a solution that includes a substance similar to household bleach and letting it dry. Silk treated for just an hour killed essentially all of the E. coli bacteria tested on it within 10 minutes and did similarly well against spores of a close anthrax relative used as a stand-in. "Given the potent bactericidal and sporicidal activity of the chlorinated silk fabrics prepared in this study, silk-Cl materials may find use in a variety of applications," the authors say. Other applications, they add, include purifying water in humanitarian relief efforts and in filters or to mitigate the effects of toxic substances.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matthew B. Dickerson, Wanda Lyon, William E. Gruner, Peter A. Mirau, Joseph M. Slocik, Rajesh R. Naik. Sporicidal/Bactericidal Textiles via the Chlorination of Silk. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2012; 120308010027008 DOI: 10.1021/am2018496

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Killer silk: Making silk fibers that kill anthrax and other microbes in minutes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314143155.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2012, March 14). Killer silk: Making silk fibers that kill anthrax and other microbes in minutes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314143155.htm
American Chemical Society. "Killer silk: Making silk fibers that kill anthrax and other microbes in minutes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314143155.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

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