Scientists create anthrax-unfriendly "killer silk"


March 16, 2012

Silk treated with chlorine has been shown to kill anthrax-like bacteria within minutes of contact (Photo via Shutterstock)

Silk treated with chlorine has been shown to kill anthrax-like bacteria within minutes of contact (Photo via Shutterstock)

When anthrax spores go dormant, they develop a tough outer coating that can withstand heat, radiation and antibiotics, in one case even allowing them to come back to life after 250 million years. It seems that such spores could be no match, however, for a special pair of silk curtains.

Dr. Rajesh R. Naik, a scientist with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, led a team that developed a chlorinated form of silk. The process involved soaking regular silk in diluted bleach, then allowing it to dry. When the treated silk was exposed to E. coli bacteria, it killed almost all of them within ten minutes – it showed similar performance when subjected to spores of Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a close relative of anthrax.

Naik and his colleagues believe that in the event of an anthrax-based terrorist attack, such chlorinated silk could be used in curtains and make-shift protective coatings for buildings. They also suggest that it could be used to purify water, and to clean up toxic substances in the environment.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Source: American Chemical Society

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

So if anthrax is so tough then why not investigate "how" it can survive. That might be useful in so many ways from extending life, to long term 'stasis' for people for space flights, for special treatments for people who have to work in hazardous areas and more...


What?! Bleach kills microorganisms?

Victoria Dickerson

Sigh. Anthrax is an extremely poor choice for a biological weapon, it spreads poorly for starters.

Random killing of micro-organisms is a poor form of defense, the active live bacteria on your skin will kill the vast majority of foreign life-forms.

Charles Barnard
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