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Scientists develop world’s first light-activated antimicrobial surface that also works in the dark

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Researchers at UCL have developed a new antibacterial material which has potential for cutting hospital acquired infections. The combination of two simple dyes with nanoscopic particles of gold is deadly to bacteria when activated by light - even under modest indoor lighting. And in a first for this type of substance, it also shows impressive antibacterial properties in total darkness.

The research, from by Sacha Noimark and Ivan Parkin (both UCL Chemistry) and Elaine Allan (UCL Eastman Dental Institute), is published today in the journal Chemical Science.

Hospital-acquired infections are a major issue for modern medicine, with pathogens like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff) getting extensive publicity. Although medical establishments have stringent cleaning policies, insist on frequent hand-washing by staff, and have powerful drugs at their disposal, it is difficult to eliminate these infections unless you can make the hospital environment more hostile to microbes. Surfaces, such as door handles, medical equipment, keyboards, pens and so on are an easy route for germs to spread, even onto freshly-cleaned hands.

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