Infection Protection by Transition Metal Oxide: “Protective Acid Mantle” for Medical Devices

Inspired by the natural protective acid mantle of human skin, an innovative coating with transition metal acids could kill bacteria on the surface of medical instruments and thus reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections. The inventor presents his product at the MEDICA EDUCATION CONFERENCE 2016 which takes place from 14 to 17 November in Düsseldorf.

The sebaceous glands of the skin produce acids that reduce the pH to about 4.8. Thus, they form a protective acid mantle that kills many potential pathogens. A similar effect is created by oxides or transition metals such as molybdenum or tungsten; Professor Guggenbichler, retired infectologist from the University of Erlangen, hopes to use this effect to free endoscopes, urological catheters or ECG lead sets from pathogens. Similarly, room fixtures and furniture could be protected by a coating with a color to which only small amounts of the transition metal oxide must be added. “A concentration of 0.2 percent should be enough to produce a protective acid protective layer”, says the infectologist.

“The oxide particles on the surface of the coating form acidic groups with the water from the ambient air and these adjust the pH to 4.5”, explains Professor Guggenbichler. A humidity of 25 percent is enough to provide sufficient water molecules for the reaction. Acids contain protons that attack the cell wall of many bacteria. “The protein envelope and fimbria that are used by the bacteria to adhere to surfaces are permanently denatured”, says Professor Guggenbichler. The paramagnetic characteristics of the molybdenum involved in the antibacterial effect were identified. “Bacteria are not only killed but the coating also prevents that a biofilm from forming on the surface”, adds Professor Guggenbichler. Transition metal oxides can be added to plastics, paints and lacquers. Professor Guggenbichler believes that a coating is far more elegant than killing the bacteria by antibiotics or disinfectants: “Transition metal oxides do not need to be introduced into the metabolism of the germs, which very much reduces resistance problems.”

According to the infectologist, the additives are insoluble in water and alcohol. Thus, they cannot be washed out during cleaning. In addition, transition metal oxides are heat stable and do not change the characteristics of plastics. Professor Guggenbichler explains: “The protective acid mantle is as stable as the product in which the metal oxides are incorporated. Thus the protective effect is not lost over time.” The compatibility is also not a worry. “The acid on the surface of the coating is not toxic. Molybdenum is even an essential trace element in the human body”, says Professor Guggenbichler. The lack of toxicity for skin and mucous membranes was confirmed by accredited laboratories. In the “Groundbreaking Approaches for Infection Control in Healthcare” symposium at the MEDICA EDUCATION CONFERENCE on November 17, other experts present their approaches for reducing infection risks.

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The MEDICA EDUCATION CONFERENCE is an interdisciplinary advanced training course of the German Association for Internal Medicine (DGIM) and the Messe Düsseldorf according to the motto “Science Meets Medical Technology” which takes place from November 14 to 17, 2016 in Düsseldorf. It takes place concurrently with the world trade fair for medical technology MEDICA on Monday and Tuesday between 9:00 am and 3:30 pm. Due to the clear scheduling structure, visitors have flexibility in choosing between the different topics and sessions. Three events (sessions) and various courses on a focus topic are offered in parallel each day. The MEDICA EDUCATION CONFERENCE was approved by the Medical Association of North Rhine. Following the conference at 3:30 pm, the participants have the opportunity to visit the MEDICA trade fair until 6:30 pm (courses have partly different times). The world`s largest trade fair offers the perfect addition to the conference with its innovative technological worlds. For further information on the conference program see

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