An antimicrobial material known as bioactive glass is commonly used in medical implants and drugs. Now scientists have reported that they have increased its bacteria-killing effect by more than 100 times.

Bioactive glass includes nanoparticles of a certain antibacterial metal oxide. It can be assumed that when two types of oxides are used, the effect will be doubled. Researchers at Aston University in the UK have found that depending on which two metal oxides are combined, the resulting bioactive glass can be much more effective than glass made from one of the oxides alone.

Led by Professor Richard Martin, the team created samples of bioactive glass that contained only zinc, copper, or cobalt, as well as samples that included the two metal oxides in various combinations. Each of these samples was powdered, sterilized, then added to colonies of the toxic bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (Staphylococcus aureus), as well as cultures of the fungus Candida abicans.

After 24 hours, glass in which copper was combined with zinc or cobalt was more than 100 times more effective in killing E. coli than samples containing only one oxide – it showed the same result in killing Staphylococcus aureus and fungus.

“It was interesting to do our experiments and find something that is significantly better at stopping the infection in its tracks and could potentially reduce the amount of antibiotics prescribed. We believe that combining antimicrobial metal oxides has significant potential for numerous applications,” said Richard Martin.