Organic spray protects tomatoes — and big ships

By Nathan Jeffay, June 28, 2013

In a laboratory in Hebrew University, scientists have developed a spray that repels bacteria with the same ease that insect sprays repel mosquitoes.

If the innovation by 35-year-old Meital Reches and her team fulfils its potential, its first use will most likely be in hospitals, where it could dramatically reduce the incidence of infections. Beyond that, the possibilities are endless.

“I think it will have a huge impact, which is why I instituted this,” said Dr Reches.

Her invention is a “Teflon-like” coating that keeps 99.99 per cent of bacteria at bay from items that it is applied to. It has been tested on various surfaces including metal, silicone and glass.

The coating consists of peptides — short chains of amino acid monomers — and has blocked pseudomonas, E-coli and other bacteria in laboratory tests.

It can be applied by dipping or spraying surfaces that are to be protected, or by painting the substance onto them. It could used on hospital walls and floors.

Dr Reches believes that the coating also has potential to protect fruit and vegetables from colonisation by bacteria. She said: “In terms of food, this is better than any spray that is used today as it is organic material made from natural amino acids.”

Dr Reches added that the substance is safe to use on fruit and vegetables that are washed or peeled, and could even be used on prepared food such as bread, given the relevant approvals.

One of the most lucrative potential applications for her invention is not related to human health, however.

The marine industry spends an estimated £100 billion a year fixing the damage that marine organisms cause to ships and other equipment. Dr Reches is confident that her invention could be applied to sea water-exposed surfaces and prevent a great deal of damage.

Last updated: 1:45pm, June 28 2013