PULLMAN, Wash. (CN) - Scientists have reported that an electrochemical reaction can kill superbugs on wounds.
For years doctors have tried to kill resistant infections with electricity, with mixed results. A team of researchers at Washington State University have figured out that it is not the electricity that kills the germs - it is a precise electrochemical reaction.
If applied in a certain way, electricity can produce a low, consistent dose of hydrogen peroxide, the study states.
To create the reaction, the researchers send electricity through a conductive fabric that covers the infection, according to the study. Hydrogen peroxide forms on the underside of the fabric and kills the infection over time.
In 24 hours, the method was able to kill 99.9999 percent of multi-drug resistant pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii, report co-author Dr. Haluk Beyenal told Courthouse News.
Regular hydrogen peroxide disappears quickly, and cannot be used as a consistent supply, and the dose also has to be very low, so it does not damage the tissue surrounding the infection, Dr. Beyanal, a Chemical Engineering Professor, explained.
The method was lab-tested using microbes on glass and cells from pig ears. Most of the infection was killed in these experiments, and, importantly, the tissue was not damaged.
The idea for the study came from Dr. Beyenal's work on fuel cells for the Department of Defense, where continuous production of hydrogen peroxide was needed, along with a study focusing on sanitizing stainless steel using electricity, and other projects, he told Courthouse News. "The idea came up from many different projects focusing on electron transfer processes in biological systems and combined. It's like fruit salad - you combine them and make something completely different."
The system may be available for use in five to ten years, Dr. Beyenal said. "It still needs animal testing, and then clinical testing, on people," he said. "Five to ten years - and it also depends on the funding sources. You know you can't do this research without funding."
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