Superbugs won’t know what zapped them

Superbugs won’t know what zapped them

The dawn of the antibiotic-resistant superbug is one we’re scrambling to avoid. For most bacterial infections, antibiotics are our best defense — in some cases, overly so, which has led to our superbug problem in the first place. Now, medical providers find themselves faced with a growing problem: How do we treat what is becoming increasingly resistant to, well, treatment?

Scientists from the University of Arkansas had an “lightbulb’’ moment, so to speak.

A tiny electrical current — fewer than 100 millionths of an amp, applied for 30 minutes — can kill bacteria. According to the study, the electrical current wreaks havoc among the bacteria’s membranes, allowing proteins, ions and other small molecules to seep in and out of the cell.

Despite the favorable damage it causes to bacteria, a current of that size is harmless to humans. In fact, the electrical power needed can be sourced from something as small as an ordinary battery, or a 1 centimeter-square solar panel.

Researchers believe electricity could be an effective method of sterilizing high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs or handles. The current may also prove effective in hindering the development of colonies of bacteria on surfaces in water storage and purification facilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States experiences 2.8 million antibiotic resistant infections annually. Although the idea of using electricity to incapacitate bacteria has been around since 1960, the race to fight superbugs is making scientists revisit different ways of preventing bacterial spread.

Although further research is needed, this just might be a shocking solution — pun intended.

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