In hospitals, surfaces can become invisible reservoirs for infection-causing bacteria. Bedside tables, telephones, food trays: they can all get contaminated when a patient sneezes, say, or a nurse touches them. And in many cases, cleaning protocols are not properly followed, meaning pathogens can lurk for weeks and spread, often causing severe infections. In an attempt to tackle the problem, researchers have developed an antibacterial surface material inspired by shark skin. The material is covered with a maze of tiny ridges and grooves (pictured) that make it difficult for bacteria to attach. When various surfaces were sprayed with Staphylococcus aureus, the shark-inspired material reduced contamination by 94 percent compared to a smooth surface. It even outperformed copper, which is also being studied as an antimicrobial surface. If the new material works as well in real-life settings, it could potentially reduce the number of infections acquired in hospitals.
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