Socks coated in zinc oxide nanoparticles can prevent unpleasant foot odor

New research presented at the 29th EADV Congress, EADV Virtual, shows that socks coated in zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO-NPs) can prevent bromodosis (foot odor) and pitted keratolysis (bacterial infection causing smelly feet), reducing the negative impact this embarrassing condition has on quality of life.

Developed by the Royal Thai Airforce, the ZnO-NP-coated socks were trialed in a real-life setting by researchers at Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University in Thailand. They found that the antibacterial efficacy of ZnO-NPs, along with its safety and compatibility with human skin, makes it the perfect compound to incorporate into textiles, including socks, to prevent unpleasant foot odor.

The double-blinded, randomized, controlled trial was conducted with 148 cadets at the Thai Naval Rating School. Bromodosis and pitted keratolysis are a common complaint in military personnel, with foot lesions, including pitted keratosis, occurring in over a third of naval cadets in Thailand (38.5%).

The study demonstrated that those with the ZnO-NP-coated socks had significantly less foot malodour compared to baseline (p=0.009). This was compared to the uncoated-sock group who experienced more intense foot odor with a greater negative effect on their daily life (p=0.04). They also found that participants with the uncoated-socks were more likely to develop pitted keratolysis compared to those with the ZnO-NP-coated-socks (p=0.05).

The study is a result of the first-hand experience of lead author Dr Punyawee Ongsri, a naval officer and final year resident at the Department of Dermatology, Siriraj hospital, Mahidol University. He saw an issue with military personnel while working in the naval medical department.

While completing an internship as a naval officer in the medical department, I saw a high number of foot infections in military personnel. I wanted to find a way to prevent and treat these fungal and bacterial infections and those conditions associated. Previous studies had demonstrated zinc oxide nanoparticles’s antibacterial properties therefore my professor Dr. Bunyaratavej, Dr. Leeyaphan and our research team wanted to test the efficacy of this new technology in a real-life setting.

Our results prove the efficacy of ZnO-NP-coated socks in preventing bromodosis and inhibiting the development of pitted keratolysis. These socks could provide a new primary prevention option for both military personnel and those susceptible to these embarrassing and unpleasant conditions. We are continuing our research with other textiles and hope to treat and prevent the growth of bacterial and fungal infections.”

Dr Punyawee Ongsri, Naval officer and final year resident at Department of Dermatology, Siriraj hospital, Mahidol University

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