In a new article published in Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers describe testing a new coating made from silver and ruthenium, a platinum derivative. Elements such as silver have been shown to kill micro-organisms with high efficiency and silver coils are used in a variety of applications, such as water cooling, to prevent the growth of bacteria.
The coating, which the researchers call AGXX, was tested on one of the more disgusting surfaces of the International Space Station: the bathroom door. The surfaces were then tested after the coating had been applied for several months and the results seemed promising.
"After 6 months of exposure to the ISS, no bacteria were found on AGXX-coated surfaces," said professor Elisabeth Grohmann, senior author of the work, in a statement.
The testing was repeated between 12 and 19 months, and while a few bacteria had been able to knock during that extended period, there was nevertheless an overall reduction of 80 percent in terms of bacterial activity. The researchers attribute this to the build-up of microscopic material on the surfaces so that the bacteria could not come into direct contact with the surface.
"With prolonged exposure, a few bacteria escaped the antimicrobial action," says Grohmann. "The antimicrobial test materials are static surfaces where dead cells, dust particles and cell debris can accumulate over time and disrupt the direct contact between the antimicrobial surface and the bacteria."
This work is especially important because of the stress that astronauts endure during their stay aboard the space station. Dramatic changes in daily life can reduce the effectiveness of human immune systems and flying in space is one of the most stressful things a person can experience.