Researchers in Spain have developed bacteria-killing textiles that could be used to stop the spread of infections acquired within hospitals. Created by scientists at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya BarcelonaTech (UPC), the textiles are designed to prevent nosocomial infections — bacterial and fungal infections that aren't detectable, and can easily spread among hospital patients. Studies estimate that between three and 10 percent of admitted patients become infected during their stay, and while mortality rates are low, these hospital-acquired microbes can extend inpatient treatment periods, thereby putting extra strain on healthcare systems.

To combat this, researchers used adhesive enzymes to embed antimicrobial nanoparticles within textiles. Applied under ultrasonic radiation, the enzymes help secure bacteria-fighting agents to the fabrics, which remained effective even after 70 laundry cycles. In addition to protecting a patient from outside bacteria, the fabric also incorporates hybrid materials that inhibit the growth of any new microbes. According to the scientists, their work could be used to produce antimicrobial gowns that are 100 percent effective.

The study was launched under the SONO consortium — an EU-funded project that aims to develop more resistant fabrics for hospital use. UPC's team has already begun collaborating with manufacturers to produce hospital gowns from their textiles, and has tested them at a hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria, with encouraging results thus far.