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Weak electric currents could help combat superbugs

Scientists have shown that currents measured in millionths of an amp kill bacteria by disrupting their outer membranes. The finding may inspire new antimicrobial technologies that use electricity to slow the spread of antibiotic resistant infections.


Scientists have known since the 1960s that electricity can kill or suppress the growth of bacteria. The increasing threat posed by antibiotic resistant superbugs in recent years, however, has given added urgency to the search for new ways to reduce the transmission of bacteria.


According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2019, there are 2.8 million antibiotic resistant infections in the United States each year, causing an estimated 35,000 deaths.


The superbug crises in most of the hospitals across USA is from the rampant use of antibiotics on patient. Right now there is no cure for this superbug infection.


Now, a team of scientists at the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville, has shown that a current of fewer than 100 millionths of an amp, or microamps, applied for 30 minutes can kill bacteria.


The current, the researchers discovered, works by disrupting the bacteria’s membranes, allowing proteins, ions, and other small molecules to leak into and out of the cells.


A voltage of under 1.5 volts was enough to generate the required current. “The electric power we used is very low,” says Prof. Yong Wang, senior author of the new study. “A household battery can provide enough power. So can a 1-centimeter-square solar panel.”


The findings indicate that electricity may be a practical way to continually sterilize objects, such as doorknobs, that people frequently touch. The currents are too small to harm humans, says Prof. Wang.


Scientists could also use tiny currents to inhibit the formation of tough bacterial colonies, or biofilms, on surfaces in water storage or purification facilities.


The research features in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. under title Microampere Electric Current Causes Bacterial Membrane Damage and Two-Way Leakage in a Short Period of Time

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