While there have been hand washing mandates established, protocol created for cleaning hard surfaces in operating rooms (ORs) and
other guidelines to help keep both patients and staff safe
from harmful bacteria and fungi, some manufacturers in
the healthcare industry are working to make antimicrobial
scrubs part of that standard too.
This mission is supported by new surgical attire guide-
lines, like the ones released by the Association of periOp-
erative Registered Nurses (AORN) in November 2014,
saying there was “emerging evidence” antimicrobial scrubs
could “prevent bacteria and fungi from adhering to the
fabric and… may help protect patients from SSIs.”
What’s so great about this option for healthcare works
is it doesn’t add another task or require them to do things
differently, Karin Mueller, vice president of marketing
at Noble Biomaterials, Inc., said. “We’re not asking that
nurses or doctors to spend more time, because that’s the
one thing we know they don’t have – more time,” she said.
All they need to do is get dressed in their scrubs, like they
How They Work
Developing the science behind the germ-zapping attire
is a challenge a few manufacturers have taken on, which
includes picking the right antimicrobial agent. Different
actives work in different ways because of how they’re naturally structured. Some selectively target bacterial organisms, while others target bacterial protein and the mode of
Development started for Vestagen in 2009, when
researchers evaluated their options for an active. They
wanted to to embed it into the fibers of the fabrics, so
the active would bond to fibers permanently, otherwise
the garment would lose its integrity, he explained. After
testing in a lab and clinical settings, Vestagen released
scrubs, with the active being a monomer, 3-trimethoxysi-
lylpropyldimethyl octadecyl ammonium chloride. The
agent is effective by working through the positively
charged ions covalently bond to the carbon ring, which
kills germs by making the bacterial member leak and die.
This active is applied only to the fibers facing the out-
side of the scrub, so it isn’t pressed against the skin. The
scrubs are also fluid repellant.
Another antimicrobial healthcare fabrics manufacturer is
Life Threads, founded by Karan Jhunjhunwala. It released
its first set of antimicrobial scrubs in November 2014, but
released a set that were antimicrobial and fluid resistant a
month later. The fluid repellant aspect is meant to be the
first line of defense for healthcare workers, so the fluids
and material don’t stick to them; the antimicrobial aspect
deals with whatever is still on their scrubs, he explained.
The active is zinc pyrithione. It’s known for its commercial
use in antidandruff shampoos, but works as an antimicrobial by increasing cellular levels of copper, which ruin the
clusters of proteins that fungi rely on to metabolize, stopping the fungi from spreading.
“The entire healthcare environment is price sensitive,”
Jhunjhunwala said. “We wanted to come up with a tech-
nology that’s not only effective, but cost effective and can
be blended into different types of fabric.”
Blending actives into fabric is a common theme for anti-
microbial textile manufacturers, and Noble Biomaterials,
Inc. is a company that manufactures a silver active into
a thread named X-STATIC, which is used to make
SilverCare® Plus Antimicrobial Scrubs.
Silver has been recognized for many years as being an
antimicrobial agent, but not all silvers are equal Mueller
explained. The silver used in X-STATIC, which is a silver
coating over a flexible thread, works when its positively
charged silver ions attach to negatively charged bacteria
ions and attach the DNA of the bacteria ions, inhibiting
the bacteria, not allowing it to replicate.
The three agreed it was important antimicrobial scrubs
and soft surfaces were introduced to hospitals and ORs to
help limit the spread of SSIs.
“I think is so important, especially in a healthcare environment, because we talk about infection prevention protocol,” Mueller said. “(Antimicrobial scrubs) are going to
be like a seatbelt 10 years from now.”