Safer anti-bacterials

Bath University researchers are taking part in a €3m pan-European effort to study safer and more effective anti-bacterial plastics and coatings.


BathUniversity researchers are taking part in a €3m (£2.8m) pan-European effort to study safer and more effective anti-bacterial plastics and coatings.



The Bath team has developed a range of compounds that have been shown to be effective against common bacterial infections such as MRSA and are safer than existing anti-bacterials based on silver nanoparticles.



They will develop these compounds so that they can be incorporated into a wide range of materials from medical devices, wound dressings, food packaging and nappies.



Led by BathUniversity’s Dr Toby Jenkins, the research team comprises chemists Dr Andrew Johnson and Dr Gareth Price and biologist Dr Nick Waterfield, as well as colleagues in Exeter, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.



From the total grant, Bath will receive just under €750,000, which will fund equipment, a team of three PhD students and a research fellow.



Bacteria such as MRSA are dangerous because they are resistant to most conventional antibiotics.



To try and understand this problem, the researchers will also study which genes allow bacteria to become resistant.



Jenkins said: ‘In simple terms, we want to know what is special about that one bacterium in a million that is resistant to an antimicrobial polymer. Which genes are switched on or off and which proteins are produced to help the bacterium survive?



‘From this knowledge we can stay one step ahead of evolution in the fight against pathogenic bacteria and infections such as MRSA and Pseudomonas aeruginosa,’ he added.



Early work by the BathUniversity team has made compounds containing zinc, copper and silver, which have been effective against common hospital bacteria but are non-toxic to human cell growth.