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What's Up Magazine

Hope for Germaphobes

Sep 09, 2013 03:31PM ● By Cate Reynolds

It’s a dirty world out there. Did you see that story recently about our purses having more germs than bathrooms? Who can ignore a headline like that? How about the one concerning the amount of germs on library books? (Spoiler alert: most of the germs are on the covers.) Britain’s Daily Mail recently carried a story that claimed the average Brit barbecue has twice as many germs as a toilet seat. (I guess the lavatory is the barometer by which all things germy are measured.) And in the how-low-can-they-go category, researchers in North Carolina have pointed a contaminated finger at man’s best friend. North Carolina State University just published a report in the PLoS One journal, which found that homes with dogs have both a greater number of bacteria and more types of bacteria than homes without dogs. “The project was a first step toward compiling data on all the types of microbes found in the entire home and how they might affect our health and well being,” one researcher explained to NBC News. (Pass the hand sanitizer, please.)

But in a page right out of science fiction, a new device may render some of those invaders all but harmless. Even the device renders itself harmless. John Rogers of the University of Urbana- Champaign and his team have created remote-controlled, dissolvable electronic implants that could help attack microbes. Understanding the science of these gizmos is way above most of our pay grades, but in essence, they kill the germs with heat, without damaging the tissue or hurting the patient. Then the device dissolves into harmless body fluid. Remember the whole point of our natural heating element, a fever, is to kill germs— the trick being to successfully kill the germs before the fever fries our brains. In theory, the wireless bio-absorbable circuit can achieve the same effect with a much safer outcome.

There is lots of work and research ahead to perfect this Star Trek/Dr. McCoy-worthy treatment. But in this day and age of antibiotic resistant superbugs, it could prove to be one of mankind’s greatest discoveries. And just imagine the peace of mind it could bring to germaphobes throughout the world. —S.H.