Battling the superbugs

AG Technologies has discovered a way to bind high-grade silver to fabric, a breakthrough claimed to be 99.99 per cent effective in preventing the spread of infection caused by MRSA.

The company’s proprietary method molecularly binds silver to thread, which can then be woven or knitted into laboratory coats, patient gowns, privacy curtains, sheets and mattress pads.

Dubbed Argent 47, the antimicrobial technology is said to be effective in preventing the spread of other antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including E.coli and staphylococcus.

Target markets include the hospitality sector and healthcare.

According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics, 1,593 death certificates mentioned Meticillin-resistant MRSA in 2007 alone.

Globally, around two million patients are said to suffer from healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) each year, which translates into $4.5bn (approximately £3bn) in excess healthcare costs.

John C Rossi, president and chief financial officer of AG Technologies, told The Engineer Online that while Argent 47 will not eradicate MRSA, it has the potential to play a significant role in the battle against so-called ‘superbugs’.

For the past three years the product has undergone testing with NAMSA (North American Science Associates), VARTEST Laboratories and Snell Scientific.

On average, tests have shown that MRSA, E.coli, klebsiella pneumoniae and enterococcus faecalis (VRE) are 99.99 per cent less likely to survive in fabric made from Argent 47.

There are also added benefits in terms of housekeeping.

Rossi admitted that the initial outlay for a hospital sheet made from Argent 47 is high at $40 per sheet.

However, he added that the sheet would be able to withstand 60 cold washes at a cost of $0.19 per wash compared with 20 washes at normal temperature for a sheet made from cotton and polyester.

A further environmental benefit can be found in the molecular binding itself, as silver in the fabric is not released into the environment.

This compares favourably compared to silver nanoparticles, which are sprayed onto fabrics and commonly used to inhibit odour-causing bacteria in apparel.

Doubts persist about the possible toxic effects of silver nanoparticles in the wider environment.

A recent report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution called for an urgent need for more testing and new arrangements for the control of nanomaterials.

AG Technologies is now in the process of marketing the product and has made an application to the PLUS market.