Medanta tested the effectiveness of its antimicrobial fabrics against the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. The fabrics were found to be nearly 100% resistant to the bacterium in a study conducted as part of the laboratory analytics programme at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. The tests were run over a period of several months.
The purpose of the study was to examine the effectiveness of the antimicrobial treatment for fabrics used in work clothes. The study was conducted as a blind study in accordance with the European SFS-EN ISO 20743 standard at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
In its continuous development of antimicrobial work clothes, Medanta has run into a problem: not much research-based information is available about testing fabric antimicrobial technologies, not even globally. However, it’s clear that hospital-acquired and other infections are a risk in healthcare that can be mitigated by using antimicrobial work clothes.
According to Anu Kivelä, CEO of Medanta, the lack of research indicates that there is no further interest in the issue as long as infections can be treated with antibiotics. However, strains of bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics have already begun to develop globally.
“We must do everything we can to prevent them. As no research-based information was available, we decided to have a study conducted to scientifically prove the effectiveness of our antimicrobial treatment,” says Kivelä.
The study was conducted for Medanta by students of laboratory analytics at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in the Helsinki metropolitan area. The cooperation resulted in a successful study and excellent results: the antibacterial effectiveness of the popular Medanta Flex fabric was confirmed at 99.8%.
Agnes Kirsanova, Antti Tuhkala and Veronika Konstantinova (right) are studying the antimicrobial effectiveness of Medanta’s fabrics under the supervision of Jarmo Palm, Head of Degree Programme, Laboratory Analytics (second from right).
Excellent results for a popular fabric used in work clothes
The research project was supervised by Jarmo Palm, Head of Degree Programme, Laboratory Analytics at Metropolia. According to Palm, Medanta’s project was particularly interesting, because the antimicrobial properties of textiles had not previously been studied at Metropolia in a similar manner.
Medanta’s goal was to obtain research-based material on the antimicrobial properties of its textiles, and the project succeeded in this.
“We studied the antibacterial effectiveness of textile samples in accordance with a standard method using the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. When we compared the sample fabrics with the reference fabric, we were able to tell based on the tests that Medanta’s fabrics reduced microbes. This result was very clear,” Palm explains.
Medanta’s Anu Kivelä is pleased with the study, and for a good reason.
“The best aspect was scientific proof that our most popular fabric for work clothes, the flexible and breathable Medanta Flex, offers excellent antimicrobial effectiveness, as well as being a functional and safe product. The students also tested new materials that were still under product development. We were hoping for interim information for our product development, and these materials turned out to be nearly 70% resistant to bacteria.”
A study in line with a European standard
The project was challenging but rewarding for the students.
According to Agnes Kirsanova, Antti Tuhkala and Veronika Konstantinova, the first task was to find a suitable European standard method for the tests. After a literature review, a suitable method was found: “Textiles. Determination of antibacterial activity of textile products”, or SFS-EN ISO 20743.
The students compared antimicrobial fabrics submitted by Medanta with an untreated sample fabric. When the bacterial colonies in all the fabrics were counted, it was found that Medanta Flex was 99.8% resistant to the bacterium.
Tuhkala says that the work progressed slowly, as the standard included three methods, and the students needed to determine the method that was the most suitable for their study.
“We decided to use the absorption method, in which the bacteria are determined quantitatively using the colony counting method. It takes five days to run a test, and if any problems emerged, we had to start over, meaning that we lost an entire week.”
Kirsanova, Tuhkala and Konstantinova are studying to become laboratory analysts at Metropolia, and the collaboration with Medanta was part of an innovation project for third-year students.
“When the project started, we didn’t really have an idea of how challenging and extensive it would be. Microbiology deals with living cells. It’s difficult to know in advance how they will behave,” Konstantinova says.
Samples were tested in hundreds of Petri dishes and test tubes
The study was conducted as a blind study. Medanta provided the students with five fabrics, one of which was the reference fabric. The four antimicrobial fabrics were compared with the reference fabric. The research team did not know at any point which fabric they were testing or which fabric was supposed to produce the best results.
“We used two different bacteria. The actual tests were conducted using Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium on the skin and mucous membranes. Before the tests, the method was reviewed using Escherichia coli, a bacterium commonly found in the intestine. It’s easy to culture and handle, and we used it to ensure that the test worked and the results were consistent.”
Microbiology is challenging, which is exactly what Tuhkala, Konstantinova and Kirsanova like about it: “When culturing live microbes, the progress of a test is always unpredictable, and the result must be achieved repeatedly. One time is not enough.”
The tests took a long time and mainly consisted of manual work. On the best days, there were 250 Petri dishes side by side in the laboratory, in addition to test tubes.
“Several parallel dishes were cultured from each test tube. There must be several reference samples and dilution series: even if the bacteria grow in one dish, they may not necessarily grow in another. We needed to have enough samples to confirm the result reproducibly and eventually calculate an average that met the requirements of the standard,” Tuhkala explains.
The project began in the autumn of 2019, and the research team presented the final results to Medanta in February 2020.
Cooperation benefits educational institutions and companies alike
Metropolia is the only higher education institution with a degree programme in laboratory analytics in Finland. The programme attracts students from all over the country. Many companies have cooperated with Metropolia for a long time, and Medanta and Metropolia have already decided to continue their cooperation.
The Myyrmäki campus of Metropolia has a laboratory wing, where state-of-the-art facilities and equipment offer a reliable setting for applied research and the development of new methods.
“Our project with Medanta was a success, as we were able to prove that certain textiles clearly reduce microbes,” says Palm. “Next time, we will possibly test fabrics using an alternative method and will add new bacterial species to the tests.”
Jarmo Palm has broad and varied experience in scientific research. Before embarking on teaching, he engaged in biomedical research at the Biomedicum research and education centre in Helsinki, where he carried out research into stem cells and the biology of cancer, among other topics.
“I joined Metropolia 11 years ago, and cooperation projects with companies have increased considerably since then. Universities of applied sciences are limited liability companies, and we interact with society increasingly and more openly, as well as providing education in cooperation with companies and research institutes. Part of the reason for the increased cooperation is the guidance of the Ministry of Education, which is excellent, because it enables students to create valuable contacts with companies and working life.”