According to a recent article published by the University of Leeds, 300,000 patients a year in England get hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), which leads to increased treatment costs and threats to patient safety. Hospital doors are one of the biggest culprits of transmitted bacteria because of how frequently they’re touched. Studies show that up to 80% of infections are transmitted by hands. In a hospital, this can be especially dangerous, even deadly. Now scientists have developed a textile called Surfaceskins that disinfects itself; when adhered to doors, can help reduce the spread of bacteria that leads to infections.

According to its company website, Surfaceskins Limited is a collaboration between Nonwovens Innovation and Research Institute Ltd (NIRI) and industrial design consultants, Simon Scott-Harden and Adam Walker.  While visiting a hospital during a surgery, one of the consultants noticed how dirty the doorplates were and had the idea to create an antibacterial textile that could adhere to hospital doors. The goal was to develop a safe touchable surface and reduce the transmission of germs. After the iteration of many prototypes, the Surfaceskins door pushpad was launched in 2016. The antibacterial door pads work by dispensing a small amount of alcohol gel onto the pad when pushed, which disinfects the surface for the next person using the door. As the company points out, Surfaceskins are not meant to clean hands or replace strict guidelines for handwashing in hospitals, but are designed to kill deposited germs and bacteria between one user and the next touching a hospital door. The addition of antibacterial door pads will complement existing gel dispensers and hand cleaning, thereby helping prevent the spread of germs and bacteria that contribute to HAI’s. The device is low-cost and meant to be replaced after seven days or one thousand pushes, whichever occurs first. A study published in The Journal of Hospital Infection confirmed the effectiveness of the Surfaceskins door pads over standard door plates in reducing bacteria that commonly cause hospital-acquired infections.

Surfaceskins could have applications beyond hospitals. Other environments where hand hygiene is critically important, such as catering, restaurants, school cafeterias, and other hospitality sectors, could benefit from antibacterial door pads that prevent the spread of bacteria that can lead to illness.