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DIT scientists winning fight on superbugs

RESEARCHERS at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) have made a major breakthrough in the fight against deadly superbugs.

The researchers have developed a light-activated powder which is effective against lethal bug MRSA.

The anti-bacterial powder, which can be added to paint to cover surfaces in hospitals, prisons and in homes, reduces the need for repeated cleaning using chemicals such as bleach.

Scientists have said that the patented self-sterilising material has the potential to greatly improve hygiene in hospitals and schools.

Dr John Colreavy, centre director of Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology (CREST) in DIT, headed the research for the innovative product and explained that the antibacterial properties work once a light is switched on.

"It just doesn't kill the bugs on the surface but it actually breaks down all of the dead matter until you arrive at carbon dioxide and water," he said.

"Most hygiene technologies kill the bacteria but the dead matter is a very good foundation for even worse challenges on that surface.

"It's like a vigilant technology, it kills the bacteria, it works all the time there is light and it removes all the matter from the surface," he added.

Dr Colreavy explained that current hygiene coatings that use photoactive Titanium dioxide (TiO2) materials have serious limitations as they only work outdoors due to the need for UV light.

"Photocatalytic materials are materials that absorb light and form a sort of charge on the surface," Dr Colreavy said.

The organic compounds including bacteria and dirt are then broken down by the hydroxyl radical to form water and carbon dioxide.

Another key benefit is that no chemicals or metals are leached during the process, which makes it environmentally friendly, and TiO2 is commonly used in suncream and paints due to its non-toxicity to humans and animals.

"While we don't say it replaces good hygiene practices, we are saying that it is the second line of defence," he said.

The product will be launched officially later this year and researchers at DIT aim to have the first product on the market by 2011.