Though fabrics in hospitals are regularly washed and sterilized, they can still gather pathogens and spread them to individuals that come in contact with them. In a pathogen-rich environment like a hospital, the surfaces and fabrics must be kept pathogen-free to keep the doctors and patients safe.
Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI) can be solved if we could use fabrics that can repel and kill microbes that get in contact with them. HAI are infections that gets acquired/ transmitted from either the patient to the doctor, nurses and other healthcare workers or vice versa. These infections happen after surgery, and they are acquired unknowingly. After operation the immunity of a patient gets weak, so it is easier for them to get infected. The use of protective gowns, bed covers, linens, and other clothing by doctors, nurses, and patients will highly reduce the chances of infections.
Not only hospitals but all public places face this problem, as surfaces and fabrics are not cleaned often. Using Self-disinfecting/ Infection Control fabrics in these places can add to public safety, health and prevent diseases to spread.
What are Self-Disinfecting Fabrics?
Self-disinfecting fabrics are made by either altering the structure or surface of the fabric to minimize the attachment of microbes or delay the development of microbial colonies. This is done by using compounds that are activated in the presence of light to reduce the microbial burden and incorporating a heavy metal such as silver or copper with intrinsic antimicrobial activities.
In developing antimicrobial fabrics, the fabric properties must not be altered during the processing. It should be capable of doing what it is made to do, i.e., be comfortable to wear and be washable.
Methods of Creating Self-disinfecting Fabrics:
The fabric surface is coated with a photoactivated self-cleaning film. The most commonly used photoactive material for this purpose is Titanium Dioxide (TiO2).
When ultraviolet light comes in contact with the photosensitive surface, it releases active oxygen species. These active microbial species include superoxide and hydrogen radicals
Limitation→ It may be challenging to provide a constant source of UV radiation for the photoactivation of the material.
In these fabrics, an antimicrobial agent is impregnated into the fabric material. The antimicrobial used should remain durable, fluid repellant, and should not show a loss in activity after washing in reusable fabrics.
Some of the antimicrobial materials used for impregnating fabrics are-
– Hydroxyapatite binding silver TiO2,
– Quaternary ammonium salts, etc.
Heavy Metal Impregnated Fabrics.
Heavy metals have antimicrobial properties, and this is used in fabrics to protect from pathogens. Heavy metals most commonly used are-
Nano silver particles coated on the fabric surface show a reduction in microorganism count. It is especially true for gram-negative bacteria.
The reason behind the antimicrobial activity of copper may relate to its ability to accept and donate single electrons leading to the generation of reactive oxygen species, resulting in cell lysis.
Copper has a wide range of activity against bacteria, including spore-forming bacteria such as Clostridium difficile, MRSA, and yeasts and molds.
The incorporation of self-disinfecting fabrics in healthcare and public places can provide a boost for preventing infections and cross-contamination among individuals. Each fabric has its own advantages and limitations, which should be assessed while selecting the type of self-disinfecting fabric to be used for a specific purpose.