Killer Clothing Bursts Bad Bacteria

An extra bonus: Because of the paint's ability to kill bacteria and viruses, no additional disinfectants would be necessary when cleaning walls.

The paint, however, is still in development, and further testing will determine the safety of such a product.

The Plasma Pencil

A pencil-shaped device that shoots out cold plasma with anti-microbial properties sounds like a gadget straight out of a sci-fi movie.

It isn't a work of fiction though -- Dr. Mounir Laroussi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Old Dominion University, is developing such a product. Although you cannot use the plasma pencil to write, this biomedical technology use of cold plasma may be able to prevent infections and diseases.

plasma pencil

So how is the plasma pencil supposed to help eliminate bacteria? When emitted from the pencil-shaped device, the plasma charges the surrounding air molecules and creates free radicals, thereby once again poking holes in the bacterial cell walls and killing the microbe.

The device is not supposed to affect human skin, said Laroussi, who pointed out that human skin cells have a more sophisticated cell wall structure than bacteria. The complexity of skin cells is what prevents them from breaking apart when hit by the low-temperature plasma.

Another planned application of the plasma pencil is healing wounds.

"Let's say you have a patient with a cut and burn. Instead of using liquid, you can apply the plasma and kill the bacteria without leaving residue," Laroussi said.

Fishman said he believes the plasma pencil seems like promising technology, especially with regard to its function as a wound healer. However, he noted that more research needs to be done on the device.

"I think there needs to be a lot more work done on this," said Fishman. "More work on the safety."

The Handler

Your hands are always doing the dirty work. There isn't a surface or object that is completely void of germs.

That's one of the reasons health experts have always trumpeted the importance of washing hands in preventing the transmission of disease.

"Good hand hygiene can make an impact on infection," said Fishman.

The Handler

But what if you just don't touch anything? The Handler, a key chain-sized device that releases a rubber hook to grip door handles and press buttons, is advertised as an alternative to more traditional cold and flu prevention methods.

"The idea with the Handler is that it basically puts a barrier in between your hands and surfaces like ATM buttons and the keypads at checkout lanes," said Bill Schlueter of Launchpad Public Relations, which promotes the device.

But what about the germs that latch onto the Handler? Nanosilver.

"The Handler has a minute amount of nanosilver infused in the plastic," said Schlueter. "It's a self-sanitizing device."

However, Fishman was less than enthused.

"This borders on the obsessive-compulsive," Fishman said. "Other than reinforce phobias, I don't think this is a useful product to significantly decrease infections."

Fishman asserted that the routine washing of hands is better at stopping the spread of disease.

Schlueter said that the Handler is meant to prevent sicknesses at the individual level and that each person has his or her own "degree of germ-consciousness. The whole idea behind the Handler is that you don't take the chance of getting [germs] on your hand in the first place."

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