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Curr Microbiol. 2006 Dec;53(6):491-5. Epub 2006 Oct 26.

Bactericidal activity of copper and niobium-alloyed austenitic stainless steel.

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Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sevilla, Spain.


Biofouling and microbiologically influenced corrosion are processes of material deterioration that originate from the attachment of microorganisms as quickly as the material is immersed in a nonsterile environment. Stainless steels, despite their wide use in different industries and as appliances and implant materials, do not possess inherent antimicrobial properties. Changes in hygiene legislation and increased public awareness of product quality makes it necessary to devise control methods that inhibit biofilm formation or to act at an early stage of the biofouling process and provide the release of antimicrobial compounds on a sustainable basis and at effective level. These antibacterial stainless steels may find a wide range of applications in fields, such as kitchen appliances, medical equipment, home electronics, and tools and hardware. The purpose of this study was to obtain antibacterial stainless steel and thus mitigate the microbial colonization and bacterial infection. Copper is known as an antibacterial agent; in contrast, niobium has been demonstrated to improve the antimicrobial effect of copper by stimulating the formation of precipitated copper particles and its distribution in the matrix of the stainless steel. Thus, we obtained slides of 3.8% copper and 0.1% niobium alloyed stainless steel; subjected them to three different heat treatment protocols (550 degrees C, 700 degrees C, and 800 degrees C for 100, 200, 300, and 400 hours); and determined their antimicrobial activities by using different initial bacterial cell densities and suspending solutions to apply the bacteria to the stainless steels. The bacterial strain used in these experiments was Escherichia coli CCM 4517. The best antimicrobial effects were observed in the slides of stainless steel treated at 700 degrees C and 800 degrees C using an initial cell density of approximately 10(5) cells ml(-1) and phosphate-buffered saline as the solution in which the bacteria came into contact with copper and niobium-containing steel.

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