Can Electricity Kill Bacteria?

With a wide variety of bacteria getting resistant to antibiotics, humanity is facing a big threat from superbugs. These super bugs are resistant to most known forms of antibiotics and likely to prove fatal once they spread inside the human body. Due to the rise of superbugs, scientists and researchers are constantly searching for newer ways to fight dangerous microorganisms.

One field of study has been focusing on using electricity as a means to eliminate dangerous bacteria. However, a definitive conclusion is yet to be derived, as there are various variables that can impact final results. Also, there are questions whether using electricity to kill bacteria will find any practical use or will it be limited to laboratory experiments. To understand whether electricity can kill bacteria, here are some important things to know.

Prolonged exposure to low voltage, low amp electricity

It has been known for quite some time that electricity has potential to eliminate microorganisms such as bacteria. However, unlike humans that are easily electrocuted, the same is difficult to achieve with microscopic beings such as bacteria. However, in a laboratory environment, the right conditions can be created to get electricity inside the microorganisms.

A study conducted by researchers at University of Arkansas has in fact shown that electricity can kill bacteria. For the experiment, E. coli bacteria was exposed to low voltage and low amp electricity for around 30 minutes. It was found that the bacteria died due to exposure to electricity, as the bacteria cell membrane was compromised. Ions, proteins and small molecules had leaked out of the membrane due to exposure to electricity, thereby killing the bacteria.

However, it is not known if this technique will be of any use in treating humans who have been infected by any bacteria. According to researchers, this technique in its current form can at best be used for purposes like sanitizing external surfaces and to prevent formation of biofilm in water purification and storage applications.

Can electricity kill bacteria?

The answer to the question can electricity kill bacteria is both a yes and no. That’s because a lot many variables are involved. Depending on the technique used, it is definitely possible to kill bacteria with electricity. However, whether such techniques can be converted into practical products for home and commercial applications is yet to be properly tested. Probably more research is needed to use electricity to kill bacteria without creating any risks for humans.

As of now, antibiotics continue to be the primary defense against bacteria. Researchers are also working with bacteriophages (tiny viruses) that have shown promising results in terms of fighting drug resistant bacteria. Electrical capability to kill bacteria will require further research, especially in the practical sense of making it as simple as popping a pill.

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