JaimeLee I`olani Rizzo, PhD, Awarded U.S. Patent
JaimeLee I‘olani Rizzo, PhD
Inventors and professors JaimeLee I‘olani Rizzo (formerly Cohen) of Pace University, Robert Engel of CUNY’s Queens College, and Karin Melkonian of the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University have received a patent, “Antimicrobial Surfaces,” for an anti-microbial process that destroys bacteria and anthrax spores on fabrics and other surfaces. The process may help provide an answer to the growing medical problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Undergraduate and graduate students on all three campuses played major roles in the research.
The process kills bacteria and fungi when they come in contact with treated fabrics, even after the fabrics have been repeatedly washed with mild soap. The scientists have trademarked the process as SteriPass™ and are working with manufacturers on the development of antimicrobial fabrics on products including military clothing, athletic wear, and everyday apparel, as well as water filters and wrestling mats.
Killer tails. SteriPass™ binds molecules known as cationic lipids to the surfaces of carbohydrate fabrics—woven, knit and/or engineered fabrics made from natural fibers, synthetic fibers and blends. Cationic lipids are long molecules with a positive charge at one end. When a number of them meet up with bacteria or fungi, their tails move through the microbes’ protective outer wall and then pull the charged ends against the wall, causing the microbes to literally “spill their guts” and instantly die.
Products made with the new process use a class of cationic lipids known as cationic ammonium salts. The molecules are bound to or incorporated into a surface, covering it with billions of “blades” that destroy bacteria and fungi on contact. The process is environmentally safe because SteriPass™ does not wash off into the water stream.
Curbing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A key advantage of the SteriPass™ process is that it does not accelerate the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to a number of studies, when antibiotics meet up with bacteria they kill most of the bacteria but leave behind surviving mutations, which generate species that recently have become resistant even to antibiotics as strong as Ciprofloxacin, known as CIPRO™. Emerging and spreading worldwide, these new strains are causing serious, often chronic infections, especially in health-care facilities. Other such strains include those that resist Methicillin, including Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Clostridium difficile.
Mutation does not occur with SteriPass™ treated products, the scientists say, because microbes that come in contact with it are killed by a physical means. Hence, mutation is not a viable option for survival.
Bringing the process to market. The scientists think SteriPass™-treated products will be especially useful in health-care settings where the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is most common. Already, Bio-Chemical Textile Technologies, LLC, in Newburgh, NY, a fabric processor, has licensed SteriPass™ and is starting to manufacture treated fabrics for commercial and military applications. The process has been tested on military twill fabrics in labs at the US Army Natick Soldier Center in Natick, Massachusetts and at the US Air Force Research Laboratory at Aberdeen proving Ground in Maryland. The principal rival to the SteriPass™ process involves the use of silver ion technology, which is more toxic to the environment because it washes off.
According to Bio-Chemical Textile Technologies, lab trials are underway in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine to further applications of this product in the veterinarian and hospital fields.
Meanwhile, an athletic apparel maker, DoubleSport Corporation of New York City, recently started selling wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts apparel treated with SteriPass™ to kill odor, staph bacteria, ringworm, and impetigo. The company says it may eventually use SteriPass™ technology to improve other active sportswear, exercise balls, wrestling mats and veneers for locker rooms.
--By Cara Halstead Cea