Quality Fabric Of The Month: Microbial Elimination – Crude And Simple

Bio-Chemical Textile Technologies LLC (BCTT), Newburgh, N.Y., is offering an innovative antimicrobial technology for military, hospital/institutional, air filtration, emergency preparedness and first-responder applications; as well as for contact sports such as wrestling.
According to the company, Bio-Shield Fabrics™ imparts permanent protection to cotton, wool, silk, and other natural carbohydrate- and protein-based fabrics — as well as to fabrics containing a blend of natural fibers with man-made fibers — by covalently bonding cationic lipids to the fiber surface. The technology also can be applied to man-made fiber fabrics using minor modifications of the basic process.The technology was developed and patented by Robert Engel, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY), Flushing, N.Y., and the Graduate Center of CUNY, New York City, in collaboration with former students JaimeLee I.A.C. Rizzo, Ph.D., Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Pace University, New York City, and Karin Melkonian, Ph.D., Department of Biology, Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus, Greenville, N.Y.

The lipids attack and completely kill most Gram+ and Gram– bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and others within one minute; and fungi including Candida albicans, Sacchromyces cerevisiae, Aspergillis niger and others within a couple of minutes, according to
Engel. He also said it will easily kill 99.99 percent of Bacillus anthracis, or anthrax — both free bacteria and spores. When a particular chain length of lipid is used, it will completely kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa — a particularly resistant bacterium commonly found in hospital settings.

Engel explained how Bio-Shield works compared to antibiotics, which kill via a metabolic route and lose efficacy when bacteria mutate into resistant strains. Bio-Shield causes penetration and electrostatic disruption of the bacterium’s cell wall, leading to cell death. In tests,
subsequent bacterial contamination also was completely eliminated.

“Our system is much cruder than the metabolic approach. This is brute force, not trying to poison or trick something,” he said. “We are just ripping the cell wall — there is nothing devious about it. The bacterium would need to change the cell wall dramatically in order to avoid this
problem. Nothing so far has been able to become resistant.”

According to Engel, Bio-Shield is safe for both the environment and the wearer, not only shielding from exterior contamination, but also killing bacteria on the skin. Washing the treated fabric with conventional laundry detergent and water does not reduce its effectiveness, but washing with a strong base or peroxide-generating enzymes does damage the agent.

Bio-Shield does not affect the fabric’s hand; and is suitable for clothing and accessories, and for shelters in conjunction with an air-filtration system. Fabrics are engineered to provide critical protection according to end-use specifications.

BCTT has licensed Prismatic Dyeing & Finishing Inc., also based in Newburgh, to process the fabric, applying the treatment to open-width fabrics in roll form, and also to socks and T-shirts. A protective apparel system might include a hood, gloves, booties and closures made from
Bio-Shield fabric. A temporary shelter fitted with a Bio-Shield air-filtration system could protect its occupants from anthrax contamination.

“This is the most exciting technology I’ve seen in my 30 years in the textile industry,” said Gary Innocenti, managing partner, BCTT; and president and CEO, Prismatic. “Because of Bio-Shield’s extremely aggressive killing mechanism, the treated fabrics are virtually self-decontaminating. In working with the chemists and microbiologists, we are still discovering new opportunities for this technology.”

Engel has used a variation of the technology successfully to destroy viruses that infect bacteria, and said the work looks promising for human and animal antiviral applications. He also is developing a chemical warfare agent deactivation treatment that can be mixed with Bio-Shield.

Innocenti said BCTT is in talks with US Department of Defense agencies to provide Bio-Shield on uniform and tent fabrics. The company also is working on hospital bedding and air-filtration solutions.

One of the first commercial end-products to use Bio-Shield is a line of innovative two-piece moisture- and microbe-resistant wrestling suits from New York City-based DoubleSport Inc.

“The traditional singlet wrestling suit really exposes the body to infections,” said Mario R. Mercado Jr., president and chief operating officer of DoubleSport and a former wrestler himself, citing impetigo, staph infections, ringworm and others. “So, I went about designing a new, more modern uniform that would address hygiene issues. In researching antimicrobial technology, I came across Engel’s work and contacted him.”

The fabric used in the suits — a 70/30 mix of high-filament-count polyester and RadiciSpandex Type S-45 heat-resistant elastane — was engineered for DoubleSport by Mark Lazarus, president, Laztech Consultants Inc., Holland, Pa.; in collaboration with Charbert, an Anton, R.I.-based elastomeric fabric manufacturer. Mercado sent the fabric to Engel to be bonded and tested. After successful fabric testing, the suits are in production.

DoubleSport also will offer Bio-Shield-treated wrestling and yoga mats; as well as cotton socks, towels and T-shirts.

For more information about Bio-Shield Fabrics™, contact Gary Innocenti (845) 561-1800.

August 2006