Irish researchers sweep smartphones clear of super bugs

Written by Joe Fay

Biological cleansing agent bursts forth in home of Westlife

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A team of Irish scientists has developed a way to neutralise that threatening sump of biological mayhem you just can’t leave home without – the mobile phone.

Happily the nano-technology can also be turned on to lesser sources of harmful bacteria such as children’s toys, kitchen worktops, TV remotes and toilet.

A team led by Prof Suresh C Pillai developed the tech at the Institute of Technology in Sligo has been tackling the problem of preventing the spread of resistant bugs by developing an antimicrobial surface that isn’t itself toxic or require the use of UV light to make it work.

The team developed a water-based solution that can sprayed onto glass, ceramic or metallic surfaces and baked in during manufacturing.

The resulting anti-microbial surface is then 99.9 per cent resistant to to the likes of MRSA, E coli and various “fungi”.

If that wasn’t appealing enough, the result is a surface that is harder than the original glass or ceramic, as well as transparent and scratch resistant. After initially developing the material for ceramics, they’ve now cracked the issue of applying it to glass, and are investigating its use in plastics and paint. Though whether painting mobile phones is an effective way of disinfecting them remains open to question.

The development is surely the biggest thing to come out of Sligo since Westlife, and will allow virtually anything to be at least as squeaky clean as the cheeky Louis Walsh-managed popsters.

Back in 2009, the Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials, put the rate of bacterial contamination of mobile phones belonging to healthcare workers at 94.5 per cent, while noting that the rate of routine cleaning of the phones by the workers was 10.5 per cent.

Indeed UK researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2011 found that around 16 per cent of phones were infected with E coli, or put bluntly, likely “sourced” from faecal matter.

If anything, the proliferation of the iPhone followed by a raft of other smartphones and tablets, probably means devices are more likely to be used in the smallest room in the house, leading to every more accumulations of, er, you know what.

Happily, the Sligo team’s breakthrough means we can look forward to a world where everything in our homes is microbe free – except, of course, for us pesky, filthy humans.