"The dormant phase of the anthrax spore is the hardiest phase of the spore and the most difficult to kill. If this can kill dormant spores, then it could more easily kill germinating spores," says Jon Calomiris. Calomiris conducted the study as part of a research program, headed by Heidi Gibson of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center (Natick, MA), to investigate the feasibility of antimicrobial textiles.
For the study, Calomiris applied dormant spores of a nonpathogenic strain of anthrax to circles of both treated and untreated fabric. The fabric samples were incubated in a chamber with controlled temperature and humidity. After one hour at 37 degrees Celsius and 80 percent humidity, 99 percent of the spores on the treated fabric were killed while spores on the control fabric remained viable. At room temperature the kill rate was 90 percent after 5 hours.
"This difference is not really surprising because for disinfectants, as you increase the temperature the effectiveness of a disinfectant increases," says Calomiris. "What's important is that we have proven the concept to be viable."
These findings represent a point fairly early in the research process, says Calomiris. His data only shows that the concept of antimicrobial textiles against anthrax spores can work.
Additional research must be done to determine what effects, if any, the disinfectant may have on human health and will also focus on potential applications for this technology in the field.
"This treatment could be useful for a variety of fabrics where you might have concerns about exposure to a microorganism. Applications of antimicrobial fabric could include clothing, tents and tarps," says Calomiris.