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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 July 2007, 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK
Instant steam could banish MRSA
Steam device
The steam can be produced in a hand-held device
A device to deliver instant superheated steam may help in the battle against hospital infections, such as MRSA.

The steam is made in seconds by passing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide through a fine powder catalyst, Chemistry and Industry magazine reported.

Although the steam can be produced at temperatures of up to 800 degrees C, the handheld device can produce cooler steam suitable for hospital cleaning.

Experts said steam could kill bacteria but more tests were needed.

UK company Oxford Catalysts are developing prototypes of the device, which could also be used to remove gum from pavements.

Anything that is heated to over 121C should be enough to kill all bacteria and even spores, so it would kill Clostridium difficile
Dr Jodi Lindsay

The powder catalyst is the size of a sugar cube.

Once the alcohol and hydrogen peroxide mixture comes into contact with the powder, it causes a powerful reaction, producing steam and carbon dioxide.

A reactor just two centimetres high is capable of producing 70 litres of steam at 650C per minute, making it highly portable, Chemistry and Industry magazine reported.

Speedy clean

Research carried out at University College Hospital London, which is due to be published soon, found that dry steam applied at temperatures ranging from 150-180C could destroy bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant superbugs like MRSA, in less than two seconds.

David Wardle from Oxford Catalysts said instant steam would convenient for hospitals because you do not have to wait for a boiler to heat up and there were no cables required.

"And the steam condenses out so it kills bugs in the nooks and crannies.

"You can miniaturise it into a plastic bottle with a trigger on it."

Dr Jodi Lindsay, senior lecturer at St Georges Hospital Medical School said steam was already used to clean medical instruments and laboratory equipment in autoclave machines.

"To me it sounds feasible - anything that is heated to over 121C should be enough to kill all bacteria and even spores, so it would kill Clostridium difficile.

"But my concern would be that in the middle of the steam it would be hot but in the periphery it wouldn't be hot enough, so the manufacturers would have to be clear about the effects."

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24 Feb 05 |  J-M

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