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New fabric may help fight transmittable diseases

CNN's Holly Firfer reports on the development of a bacteria reducing material that helps control odors on clothes.
Windows Media 28K 80K

August 24, 1999
Web posted at: 3:14 p.m. EDT (1914 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Holly Firfer

(CNN) -- A world in which socks don't smell may not be too far away. Research on germ-free fabric is being presented this week at the American Chemical Society meeting underway in New Orleans.

"Most of the odor on your clothing comes from bacteria and fungus. They are growing on the sweat in your skin cells that end up on your clothing,"said Jeff Williams of Halosource, the Seattle-based company that developed the technology.

The fabric binds disinfectant chlorine to its fibers. "When bacteria or yeasts or fungus collide with the fiber, they collide with the chlorine atoms that are bonded to the fiber, and they get killed -- and they get killed very quickly," Williams said.

No chemicals are released by the fabric, so it does not irritate the skin or harm the environment. But more important than odor control is the idea that the fabric can kill potentially harmful bacteria or viruses on contact.

Researchers hope to use this bacteria-fighting technique to help cut down on the number of illnesses from transmittable diseases.

"If you have a garment or piece of textile that might be used in a medical setting, you can be sure that viruses or bacteria that land on it are going to be killed very quickly," Williams said.

It is not a tool to sterilize the environment -- that would be virtually impossible.

"In general, I think the techniques we have available to us in terms of hand hygiene -- washing our hands with soap and water and paying attention to usual infection control techniques -- will have a much greater impact than these types of products," said Dr. John Jernigan of Emory University in Atlanta.

Antibacterial clothing is not a new concept. But germ-killing fabrics currently on the market do not kill viruses, and they tend act more slowly and wear out quickly. Researchers say the new fabric needs only one washing with some kind of bleaching agent to be good as new again.

Consumers can expect to see this antibacterial clothing in stores by early 2000. Scientists hope to market it to medical care facilities and hotels the following year.

Study: Germ-fighting chemical could create harmful bacteria
August 5, 1998
Germ-free toys help keep bacteria away from kids
February 11, 1997
Anti-germ toys: medical advance or marketing ploy?
January 29, 1997

American Chemical Society
Emory University
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