Sat. Nov. 18 2006
A remarkable new anti-viral polymer can be applied like paint and could help reduce the spread of germs in public areas and hospitals. The "biocidal paint" was developed by MIT's Alexander Klibanov.
In a graphic demonstration (see photo), a regular commercial glass slide and another one coated with alkylated PEI "paint" were sprayed with aqueous suspensions of Staphylococcus aureus cells, and then incubated. Some 200 bacterial colonies are seen on the unprotected slide—and only 4 on the protected one...
How does it work? In the case of bacteria, the polymer seems to gouge holes in a microbe's cell wall and then spill out its contents. The polymer molecules stay rigid because they are all positively charged and repel each other; they are like strands of hair standing on end from a static charge. The spikes have sufficiently few charges, however, that they can breach bacterial walls, which repel strongly charged molecules. The polymer probably neutralizes flu because the virus has an envelope around it suitable for spearing, Klibanov says.