Steam out those superbugs!

According to scientists in Britain the battle against super bugs such as MRSA could be won with steam cleaning.

Researchers at University College Hospital London, have found that dry steam applied at temperatures ranging from 150-180°C may destroy bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant superbugs like MRSA, in less than two seconds.

The steam is produced in seconds by passing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide through a fine powder catalyst in a hand-held device which then delivers the superheated steam.

The researchers believe the device may help in the battle against hospital infections, such as MRSA but say more tests are needed.

The steam can be produced at temperatures as high as 800°C, but the handheld device can produce cooler steam suitable for hospital cleaning.

Experts say that 121°C is hot enough to kill all bacteria and even spores, so it would kill Clostridium difficile.

A British company is developing prototypes of the device, which uses a powder catalyst the size of a sugar cube; when the alcohol and hydrogen peroxide mixture comes into contact with the powder, it causes a powerful reaction, producing steam and carbon dioxide.

Although the reactor is a mere two centimetres high it is capable of producing 70 litres of steam at 650°C per minute, making it highly portable.

Experts say the instant steam would be convenient for hospitals because there is no wait for a boiler to heat up and no cables are required.

The steam device can be miniaturised into a plastic bottle along with a trigger able to kill bugs in nooks and crannies.

Steam is not a novel cleaning agent and is already used to clean medical instruments and laboratory equipment in autoclave machines.

The research is published in Chemistry and Industry.

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