An silver coating has been found to reduce antimicrobial resistance aboard the International Space Station.
AGXX, a silver and ruthenium based antimicrobial coating, was tested on contamination-prone surfaces on the ISS.
After six months, no bacteria were recovered from AGXX coated surfaces. At 12 and 19 months, 12 bacteria were recovered – a reduction of 80% compared with bare steel – and no serious human pathogens were found.
Author of the study Professor Elisabeth Grohmann said: “AGXX kills all kinds of bacteria as well as certain fungi, yeasts and viruses. The effects are similar to bleach, except the coating is self-regenerating so it never gets used up.”
As NASA looks to push the length and time of space exploration, the coating could help protect immune defences of astronauts on long journeys. The findings come months after scientists found five strains of the EnterobacterbugandensisAMR superbug on the ISS.
“Spaceflight can turn harmless bacteria into potential pathogens,” Grohmann said.
“Just as stress hormones leave astronauts vulnerable to infection, the bacteria they carry become hardier – developing thick protective coatings and resistance to antibiotics – and more vigorous, multiplying and metabolizing faster.”
AGXX makes use of the disinfecting properties of silver, but it releases minimal amounts of silver ions compared to conventional silver technologies. Its antimicrobial effects are a result of depolarizing biological membranes and subsequent cell lysis.
Its developers say: “Silver is experiencing a renaissance as a means of producing clean water and keeping it clean. The continual improvement and on-going development of the efficiency of silver technology is our major goal.”