The miracle spray-on glass that stops the bugs

Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool is coating the toys in its wards with a revolutionary form of "liquid glass" that has proven in trials to reduce the number of disease-causing bacteria living on the surface of objects.

Severely ill children being treated at Alder Hey are often not allowed to play with the hospital's pool of toys because of fears that infections will be passed between patients, some of whom may have suppressed immune systems resulting from their life-saving treatment.

The liquid glass, which is safe and completely inert, forms an invisible, flexible coating on the surface of an object and repels dirt and grime. More importantly, it is believed to prevent the build-up of hospital-acquired infections such as the superbug Staphylococcus aureus, which is resistant to many antibiotics.

Alder Hey is testing the experimental coating on the toys in its children's wards because these shared objects come into intimate body contact and could easily become a source of a hospital-acquired infection spread between the children. "We have an awful lot of toys and many of them are difficult to clean. We even have to remove some of them because they are so difficult to keep clean, yet they are so important for the children," said Pauline Bradshaw, operational director of infection, prevention and control at Alder Hey.

"We view toys in the same frame as any other medical device that has to be cleaned and decontaminated. Once the toy is coated with the liquid glass you cannot see any difference whatsoever. I think it's got great potential not just for toys but for other hospital settings," Ms Bradshaw said.

Tests of the liquid glass in another nearby hospital, Southport and Formby District General, have shown that coating surfaces such as floors, bedside tables, washbasins, toilet handles and lift buttons, can reduce bacterial growth by between 25 and 50 per cent.

The three-month trial at Southport compared surfaces coated with the liquid-glass, made by a German company called Nanopool, against untreated surfaces. Hospital staff followed their usual cleaning routines and were not told which surfaces had been coated.

Scientists took swabs of different hospital areas every week for the 12-week period and the final results demonstrated a clear, statistical difference in bacterial load between the treated and untreated surfaces, according to the official evaluation of the trial. "These initial results suggest that the Nanopool coating would be effective in reducing levels of contamination on a range of surfaces in hospitals and could potentially improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the cleaning regime," the report says.

"The evaluation also confirmed that the Nanopool coating can be applied in a busy hospital setting with relative ease and with minimal disruption," it says.

The liquid glass, a form of silicon dioxide in solution, was originally developed as an anti-graffiti coating for the outside of buildings but scientists soon realised that it had the potential to act as an anti-bacterial barrier.

Nanopool said that it has conducted tests at a meat-processing plant in Germany and found that cleaning treated surfaces with hot water was just as effective at killing bacteria as cleaning untreated surfaces with a bleach solution.

Neil McClelland, Nanopool's UK project manager, said that the liquid glass coating is just a few millions of a millimetre thick and the electrostatic forces on the nanoscale film repel water and dirt. They also prevent bacteria from replicating in the way they would normally do on an untreated surface, he said.

"The tests show that we can reduce bacterial loading by between 25 and 50 per cent at a stroke and I suspect it may be higher with a bespoke cleaning method we are developing. As soon as the data on the trial was released we got a request from the same hospital in Southport to coat 150 toilets," Mr McClelland said.

Brent Dunleavey, the managing director of Radal Technology, which is subcontracted by Nanopool, is working with Alder Hey and other NHS hospitals interested in using liquid glass to coat surfaces at risk of spreading superbugs. The trial on the Alder Hey toys will involve a new cleaning method that does away with the usual caustic, bleaching agents and instead uses a "skin-safe, food-safe biocide", said Mr Dunleavey.

Conventional cleaning products used in hospitals often leave a residue that could interfere with the anti-bacterial properties of the liquid glass, he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower