Viruses, Bacteria, Molds & Fungi – Preventing Infection and Contamination Through Improved Material Characteristics

The invisible world of microbes binds our ecosystem together, even helping us digest our food, and shaping who we are! And yet, some of these microscopic organisms are deadly, and shockingly easy to pass on through contaminated products and surfaces.

Up until the first antibiotics were widely used – only 100 years ago – many people suffered and died early deaths due to simple infections.

Today, life-threatening illness from bacterial infection seems almost like a thing of that past. However, we may have collectively underestimated the evolutionary power of bacteria and other microbes. Even fungal infections, which aren’t prone to pandemics, currently kill more people than malaria!

In our modern global society, with people and goods quickly travelling around the world, the spread and transfer of deadly pathogens is increasing rapidly. And due to the rapid speed of adaptation of many of these microbes, they survive longer on less hospitable surfaces, and in some cases have become resistant to our drugs and treatments.

From food packaging to medical devices to high-contact public environments – many of the everyday surfaces and materials we rely on are increasingly susceptible to the bad bacteria and disease vectors. And aside from human health, mold and fungal growth can greatly reduce the life span or usability of materials.

With an affordable antimicrobial additive, paper, nonwovens, coatings, surface materials, and all kinds of other products can be enhanced to reduce and prevent the growth of microorganisms that can harm us.

AMR Superbugs

Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) Infections

CRE infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat as the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae bacteria become more resistant to nearly all the antibiotics available today. Over 9000 healthcare acquired infections are due to CRE. Statistics show that around 4% of patients in the US who are hospitalized for a short duration end up with a CRE infection as do nearly 18% of those who are hospitalized in long-term acute care. Nearly half of hospital patients infected from CRE bacteria die from the infection due to the lack of effective antibiotics.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Infections

MRSA bacteria is responsible for many illnesses ranging from skin and wound infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections that could possibly result in sepsis and death. Staph bacteria, including MRSA, are among the most common healthcare associated infections and the growing resistance to nafcillin, oxacillon and cephalosporins is an area of concern. The CDC reports that around 80,461 invasive infections and 11,285 MRSA infection related deaths occurred in 2011.

Vancomycin resistant Enterococci (VRE) Infections

Enterococci are also the cause of many healthcare problems such as bloodstream infections, surgical site infections and urinary tract infections. Approximately 66,000 healthcare-associated enterococcus infections occur in the US each year. It is believed that nearly 30% of Enterococcus healthcare-associated infections are vancomycin resistant. Different species have different levels of resistance but overall, 20,000 vancomycin-resistant infections occur in hospitals each year and are the cause of nearly 1300 deaths.

Multidrug Resistant Pseudomonas Aeruginosa (MDPA) Infections

Another common cause of hospital-acquired infections is pseudomonas aeruginosa, responsible for pneumonia, bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections, and surgical site infections. The CDC reports that around 8% of healthcare associated infections are caused by pseudomonas aeruginosa. Several strains of pseudomonas aeruginosa are now resistant to common antibiotics including aminoglycosides, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, and carbapenems. Nearly 13% of infections caused by pseudomonas aeruginosa are thus multidrug resistant and have become untreatable.

A Growing Bacterial Resistance

Bacterial infections, the growth of mold and fungi are typically subjects which cause people concern. Due to an overuse and misuse of antibiotics over the years, antibiotic resistance grows, the antibiotics used to treat infections do not work as well or at all. The loss of effective antibiotic treatments will not only cripple the ability to fight routine infectious diseases but will also undermine treatment of infectious complications in patients with other diseases.

Many of the advances in medical treatment—joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis—are dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics. If that ability is lost, the ability to safely offer people many life-saving and life-improving modern medical advantages will be lost with it.

The next 20 years will see a significant growth in our world’s elderly population. This segment requires the greatest number of operations, typically lives in shared accommodation, have weaker immune systems and are generally more susceptible to hospital acquired infections (HAI’s).

green bacteria

green bacteria

A Serious and Expensive Problem

Today, The Infectious Disease Society of America estimates that the annual cost to the U.S. healthcare system of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria is $21 billion to $34 billion, including 8 million additional hospital days. Seventy years after the beginning of the “antibiotic era,” there is an acute and growing public health need for new treatments to address infections caused by MDR bacteria.

The threat of bacterial resistance is growing exponentially.  Bacteria grows on a multitude of surfaces and is easily passed by human contact.

Minimizing bacterial migration can only be eliminated by a two part program:

  1. Building antimicrobial resistance into materials, so that residual bacteria left on the surface before or after cleaning.
  2. Cleaning surfaces with antimicrobial cleaners.