Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, September 16, 1998 Published at 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK


Health

Sleep tight, breathe easy

While you sleep, they eat

A bedding material that kills the tiny creatures that can cause an asthma attack has been developed by the UK textile company Courtaulds.

The novel fabric contains substances that are harmless to humans but lethal to the house dust mite, reports New Scientist Magazine.

The creatures live in bedding and carpets and feed off flakes of human skin. It is their droppings which, when inhaled, can trigger the breathing problems of asthmatics.

Starving

The mites can be controlled with powerful pesticides or by sealing mattresses in plastic covers. But the new material - which can be used to make sheets, duvets, pillows, mattresses and covers - kills the creatures by starving them to death.

Scientists at Cambridge and Nottingham Universities discovered that the mites carry a fungus on their bodies which pre-digests the skin flakes. Without the fungus, the flakes are indigestible.

David Service, research manager at Courtaulds, told New Scientist: "It's like us trying to eat wood."

Infested

The team reasoned that if they could destroy the fungus they would kill the mites.

They tested their theory using a bed containing a fungicide, strewn with flakes of human skin and infested with mites.

On the basis of the research, Courtaulds have decided to spike cotton and other fabrics with a fungicide similar to that used in athlete's foot treatment, incorporating it into the fibres as they are spun.

"It's a slow release mechanism and can't be washed out," said Service.

Patents

The company has launched the material and is actively looking for major retail outlets. However, it is keeping the identity of the fungicide secret until the patents are granted.

The National Asthma Campaign, which estimates that 3.4 million Britons suffer from the disease, said it looked forward to evaluating the bedding, but warned against over-optimism.

"It's good news if it works," a spokeswoman said. However, she added that, for maximum effect, curtains, toys and carpets would need to be treated too.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes
Relevant Stories

18 Aug 98 | Health
The breathless way to 'cure' asthma

12 Aug 98 | Health
Asthma pill 'could improve children's health'

20 Jul 98 | Health
Zeneca launches asthma pill





Internet Links

New Scientist Magazine

Courtaulds

House Dust Mite

National Asthma Campaign


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99