Scientists Mimic Sharkskin to Develop Bacteria Resistant Surfaces

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( — September 1, 2015) — Even though hospitals are rapidly cleaned with strong antiseptics, they can still be filled with all sorts of microorganisms that threaten our health. About two million people catch some disease in US hospitals every year, and around 100,000 die from it, while microorganisms tend to grow more resilient to antibiotics.  Scientists are trying to mimic nature to find a long-term solution for this issue, and they allegedly found it in sharks skin, WIRED Science reported.  

While helping the NAVY figure out how to keep its ship sides smooth, scientist Anthony Brennan studied sharkskin. Its smooth surface allows these great sea predators to swim faster than any other sea creature. He noticed that sharkskin is barnacle and algae-free. It is also a well known fact that microorganisms are more likely to hold onto roughened surfaces than stick onto smooth ones. That is how Sharklet Technologies was created.

According to Sharklet Technologies CEO Mark Spiecker, “By staying clean while moving slow, sharks defy a basic principle of the ocean.”

Sharkskin consists of millions of nano-ridges, arranged in a diamond pattern. This texture enables the process called mechanotransduction, which basically provides mechanical stress on microorganisms. In such an environment, bacteria lives no longer than 18 minutes, which is not enough lifetime for reproduction, according to Spiecker.

The goal is the creation of a thin film that has the same texture as sharkskin, that can be applied on hospital’s most exposed surfaces such as door handles or stairway banisters. This should make it more difficult for bacteria to build up on such surfaces, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like MRSA—to settle on these areas and infect hospital patients.

WIRED reported Spieckers claim that the Sharklet film can reduce bacteria transfer up to a 97 percent.

This breakthrough technology is good news for the millions of people fearing they might catch an infection in a hospital; however, it is bad news for pharmaceutical companies who profit from selling treatments and antibiotics. The Sharklet film, if it becomes a standard, would severely affect an estimated $30 billion market, that pharmaceutical giants won’t give up easily.