Monday, February 18, 2008

Fight Hospital Infections

You go there for help, but millions of people get sick in hospitals. Hospital infections are growing to epidemic proportions because they're passed from person to person. Now, researchers are working to wipe out these infections with a new bacteria-killing bandage.

Gary Smithson was hit head-on by a drunk driver. The accident put him in a wheelchair, but that is not what keeps him there. It's what happened in the ER -- hours after the crash -- that has made the past 10 years unbearable. During a routine check, doctors found an infection.

Gary is one of 20,000 Americans that leave the hospital each year with an infection they didn't come in with. Gregory Schultz, a biochemist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, is part of a team working to wipe out these super bugs. They've created a microbicidal coating that can kill the most harmful bacteria.

"The microbicidal agent -- that's the thing that kills the bacteria -- is permanently bonded on the surface of the fibers of the dressing," Schultz says.

Chris Batich, a biomaterials expert at the University of Florida, says, "What we wound up with is a surface that you can wash. And whenever it touches bacteria, it kills the bacteria ... and keeps on killing them."

The microbicidal coating can also be used on hospital gowns and bed sheets, which will help reduce the risk of infection to all hospital patients and staff.

The bacteria-fighting agent can be used outside the hospital for soldiers in the field to help stop athletes foot. The cost of putting this agent on a bandage is about one cent.

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