Headlines: Plastic Bottles Can Kill

December 11, 2013 – The world is awash in plastic of which clear polymers represent the dominant material particularly in bottles. The residue of these can take a half millennia to breakdown but not to worry. IBM has found a new use for the material. Fighting infections!

It turns that some of polymers in plastic bottles kills Candida albicans, a fungi that infects the ices of mice. IBM created a polymer-based compound that although not yet tested in humans works better in mice than any antifungal drug and causes no harming side effects.

The fungi develops resistance to the normal antifungal drugs after several applications but not the polymer-based compound. What it appears to do is disrupt the microbes’ outer membrane. The chemistry is rather interesting. Belonging to a group known as molecular glasses it starts off as individual molecules that self-assemble into larger weakly-bonded structures. The compound quickly breaks down so it passes through the body and won’t contaminate waterways.

The compound is being tested on other antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections with very promising results. IBM sees the possibility of developing commercial products like mouthwashes and shampoos containing the compound to treat skin infections.

In the pictures below you see two shots of Candida albicans, one before and one after applying the polymer compound. In the second shot all that is left is cellular debris. So maybe we have found the ultimate way to recycle all those bottles after all?


IBM fungus busting polymer



Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...