London, Feb 16 : Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals can help reduce the spread of bacterial and viral infections at hospitals by wearing a uniform brushed with tiny copper nanoparticles, new research has found.
Bacterial infection has become a major issue in hospitals.
Precious metals, such as gold and silver, have excellent antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, but their commercial use in textiles is prohibitive due to extremely high costs.
This made copper to be the best choice, as it has very similar antibacterial properties to gold and silver and is much more cost effective.
For their research, published in the Journal of Nanomaterials, the scientists created a "durable and washable" composite material made from antibacterial copper nanoparticles.
They developed a way of binding the composite to wearable materials such as cotton and polyester.
"Now that our composite materials present excellent antibacterial properties and durability, it has huge potential for modern medical and healthcare applications," said lead author Xuqing Liu from the University of Manchester in England.
The researchers tested their copper nanoparticles on cotton as it is used more widely than any other natural fibre and polyester.
Each material was brushed with the tiny copper nanoparticles which measure between one to 100 nanometres (nm).
Cotton and polyester coated-copper fabrics showed excellent antibacterial resistance against Staphylococcus aureus (S.
aureus) and Escherichia coli (E. coli), even after being washed 30 times, in the test results.
"These results are very positive and some companies are already showing interest in developing this technology.
We hope we can commercialise the advanced technology within a couple of years. We have now started to work on reducing cost and making the process even simpler," Liu said.