If you wash your hands, brush your teeth, or handle surgical instruments, you’re probably familiar with triclosan. A popular antibacterial agent, triclosan has come under scrutiny in recent years as it’s believed to help superbugs develop. Its effectiveness has also come under fire. Fortunately, though, science is ready with a replacement, and it’s far more effective than triclosan ever was.
Called imidazolium oligomers, basically they’re a long, repeating string of molecules. And they’re absolutely deadly to viruses, with a kill rate of 99.7% in less than thirty seconds against e. coli, and 99% in under two minutes against fungi and bacteria. But more than that, they’re designed to penetrate and destroy the cell membrane, leaving nothing left of the microbe that wandered into the line of fire. That’s important because leaving behind the intact microbe risks a not-quite-dead microbe evolving to resist what killed it. Ripping it apart like a tiny little Jason Voorhees makes sure the bug is dead and stays dead.
Furthermore, it was designed to be soluble in water, so you can dump it in soap, toothpaste, and all the other products that currently use triclosan. The main question, of course, is how it’ll affect humans. That work remains to be done. But if it passes the tests, and it seems likely it will, then we’ll have a whole new tool to keep superbugs from ever evolving. A key win at a time when that is a growing concern.