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Comment Water Treatment

New antimicrobial compounds offer disinfectant alternatives

By Scott Jenkins |

A newly patented class of synthetic antimicrobial compounds is aimed at overcoming the limitations of existing industrial disinfectants, such as quaternary ammonium compounds and bleaches. “Bleaches are effective disinfectants on initial application, but they don’t work when they dry and can degrade surfaces,” explains Harry Pappas, CEO of Biosafe Defenses LLC (Albuquerque, N.M.; www.biosafedefenses.com), the developer of the new antimicrobials. “Further, quaternary ammonium compounds can have safety concerns and cannot make claims to kill certain important bacterial species, such as Clostridium difficile.”

The company’s antimicrobials are p-phenylene ethynylyene polyelectrolytes, characterized by a conjugated backbone that is tuned to absorb light at specific wavelengths (examples are shown in the diagram). “Our library of compounds is characterized by cationic or anionic charge groups and pi-conjugated backbones that react with photons to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS),” Pappas says. The ROS break microbial cell walls and denature proteins and DNA, effectively killing the organisms, whether bacteria, virus, fungi or yeast. The compounds were originally developed from research at the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque; www.umn.edu) and the University of Florida (Gainesville; www.ufl.edu).

antimicrobial compounds

Among the advantages of this class of compounds is that they fluoresce under certain wavelengths, making it possible to determine where and when to apply the antimicrobials. Also, the compounds’ charged groups greatly increase their solubility in aqueous solutions, allowing a water-soluble agent that generates ROS and can persist on surfaces. Finally, the new compounds can be utilized in a variety of ways, including in liquid soap solutions, impregnated into fabrics, such as antimicrobial wipes, and incorporated into plastic and glass surfaces.

Biosafe Defenses is now offering partnerships to manufacture the compounds at kilogram scales (they are now made on the scale of several grams), and is looking for licensing opportunities. Its lead product has been successfully tested for toxicity on epithelial and endothelial cells, and on hairless mice. It is being targeted for use at hospitals and food service facilities.

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