Bristling brushes batter bacteria

Mark A. DeSorbo

CHICAGO—Two antibacterial compounds have found a way out of cleanrooms and onto toothbrushes.

Chlorhexidine and chlorinated phenol, main ingredients in cleanroom hand washes and lotions, can now be impregnated into brush bristles, toothbrushes and cosmetic brushes most notably, to combat fungus, yeast, viruses as well as S. aureus, E. Coli, pneumoniae and salmonella bacteria.

Chicago-based dental device-maker The John O. Butler Co. has recently released the Butler GUM Protect toothbrush: a replaceable-head toothbrush with antibacterial bristles.

And like Butler, Microban Products Co. (Huntersville, NC) was granted a patent, #6,108,847, last August for antimicrobial bristles that can be used for toothbrushes, hairbrushes, scrub brushes, toilet bowl brushes and cosmetic brushes.

The bristles are often made of nylon or other cleanroom materials such as polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, cellulose acetate propionate, polyethylene, acrylonite-butadiene-styrene and polyolefin alloy.

The Butler GUM antibacterial bristles are coated with chlorhexidine, which inhibits bacterial growth but does not protect against disease, so rinsing the toothbrush is still a must.

Microban's invention is more universal in that its bristles can be used for numerous types of brushes, including hairbrushes and toilet brushes. According to the inventors, Glenn F. Cueman and William D. Hanrahan, an antimicrobial, chlorinated phenol can be embedded either in the brush body, the bristles or both.

Chlorinated phenol, the inventors say, can also be incorporated in the manufacturing process by adding the compound to the resin used in the injection molding of the brush handles. By infusing antibacterial agents into the handles and bristles, germ migration, whether from the handle to the bristles or visa versa, is controlled, creating a point of equilibrium and a self-sterilizing brush.


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