University of Pennsylvania scientists working with PolyMedix are developing a new drug which can be incorporated into polymers to kill bacterial cells on contact. The drug will not enter the cells, but will mimic how our own bodies attack bacteria, by punching holes in their outer coverings so they don't have a chance to change into drug-resistant nasties. PolyMedix points out that 70% of bacteria are now drug resistant which is why new drugs, antibiotics and new sterilization techniques are so desperately needed.
As the drug will be an integral part of the polymers, it will have a much longer lasting action than if it were a surface coating. Such self-sterilising polymers could be introduced into paints, bottles and textiles. The surfaces have to be clean though. Self-sterilising does not mean self-cleaning. The biggest beneficiaries of this development will be hospitals where ironically, the worst cases of infections occur. Bacterial infections are the fourth leading cause of death according to the US Centers for Disease Control.
The antimicrobial polymers could also be used to getting rid of unhealthy black molds in damp buildings. Other possibilities include putting it in bedding, carpeting, counter-tops and towels. All of which point to the importance and potential of this discovery.