Weak Electric Currents Would Aid in Fighting Superbugs

A new study published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal has shown that electricity would eliminate bacteria. The findings might have long-term implications for fighting “superbugs.”

Since the 60s, scientists have found out that electrical currents would restrict or kill bacteria. Nevertheless, the growing threat of superbugs that can resist antibiotics has encouraged researchers to look for new methods to decrease bacterial transmission.

Most studies in previous decades focused on electric fields or large currents. However, it is still unknown how electricity would kill the bacteria and whether low currents would have the same effects.

The published study is conducted by a group of scientists from the University of Arkansas. It has suggested that electrical currents of fewer than 100 microamps would eliminate bacteria in 30 minutes.

More specifically, the electricity is able to affect the membranes of the bacteria, which enables irons, proteins, and other components to leak out and into the cells.

A voltage of fewer than 1.5 volts was sufficient to generate the needed current. This means a household battery or a small solar panel would be suitable for this purpose.

The results suggest that electricity would be a good way to sterilize objects constantly. Doorknobs or frequently touched areas can be benefited from this application. More importantly, the currents are small and will not do harms to humans.

Another application is to prevent tough bacterial surfaces, biofilms, or colonies from forming in purification or water storage facilities.

In this study, scientists used the bacterium Escherichia coli.

Various techniques were used to compare different states of bacteria when the voltage was on and off.

The findings show that irons and other components like amino acids would lead out and into the cells.

Another method known as a filtration assay indicated that even large components like nucleic acids and proteins would lead from these cells after membranes were damaged by electric currents.

Scientists believe that the electrical currents would change the normal voltage and affect the membrane.

The study concludes that treating bacteria with electric current at fewer than 100 microamps in 30 minutes would lead to considerable damage to the membranes. It also resulted in 2-way leakages of proteins, small components, and irons.

It is important to note that the electric power causing serious damage to the membrane of bacteria is extremely low, which is expected to allow for the application of low electric voltages in antimicrobial treatments.

Source: https://aem.asm.org/content/86/16/e01015-20

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