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Biotechnol Bioeng. 2003 Jul 20;83(2):168-72.

Mechanism of bactericidal and fungicidal activities of textiles covalently modified with alkylated polyethylenimine.

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Department of Chemistry and Division of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Our previous studies have led to a novel "nonrelease" approach to making materials bactericidal by covalently attaching certain moderately hydrophobic polycations to their surfaces. In the present work, this strategy is extended beyond the heretofore-used nonporous materials to include common woven textiles (cotton, wool, nylon, and polyester). Pieces of such cloths derivatized with N-hexylated+methylated high-molecular-weight polyethylenimine (PEI) are strongly bactericidal against several airborne Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. In contrast, the immobilized and N-alkylated PEIs of low molecular weight have only a weak, if any, bactericidal activity. These findings support a mechanism of the antibacterial action whereby high-molecular-weight and hydrophobic polycationic chains penetrate bacterial cell membranes/walls and fatally damage them. The bactericidal textiles prepared herein are lethal not only to pathogenic bacteria but to fungi as well.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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