A PLANT first used by prehistoric man in 30,000BC can help fight infections, according to scientists following a four-year research project.
Researchers have found that fibres from the common flax plant can kill bacteria efficiently when treated with special light-sensitive dyes and exposed to red light.
Academics at the University of Brighton, in East Sussex, say the approach could reduce contamination on bed linen and patients’ clothes from bacteria including MRSA.
Flax absorbs some light-sensitive dyes with a greater capacity than the most commonly used material, cotton. After stimulation with red light, the dyes produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) that kill bacteria.
ROS, which are chemically-reactive molecules containing oxygen, attack bacteria by several mechanisms which means bacteria is less likely to develop resistance to this treatment, unlike antibiotics, researchers say.
Dr Iain Allan, senior research fellow at the University of Brighton, said: “Using flax with absorbed reactive dye could benefit patient care in hospitals which have ambient red light installed and this could reduce the microbial burden on linen and clothes.”