This project addresses the healthcare & social assistance (HCSA) sector and the immune, infectious and dermal disease prevention cross-sector, and addresses the strategic goal to reduce occupational immune, infectious, and dermal disease and intermediate goal to conduct research to reduce worker illness and injury, and to advance worker well-being. Healthcare personnel (HCP) have a high occupational burden of exposure to infectious agents. Service textiles play an important role in the acquisition and transmission of pathogenic microorganisms. Therefore, reduction of pathogens on textile surfaces is an integral component of infection prevention to reduce the burden of exposure and protect HCP. Antimicrobial textiles have the potential to reduce exposure, but current products use quaternary ammonium salts, copper or silver coatings, and their efficacy decreases rapidly because wash/wear can remove the coating. Further, these compounds are known to induce microbial resistance, their antimicrobial functions can be significantly reduced by soils and blood/body fluid, and the actual antimicrobial potency after each wash/use cannot be monitored. We will use N-halamine-based monitorable and rechargeable antimicrobial technology to reduce microbial burden on service textiles. N-halamines are widely used water and food disinfectants with antimicrobial efficacy similar to that of hypochlorite bleach, but they are much more stable and safer to use, with no documented resistant species. We will covalently bind N-halamines onto textiles, and the N-halamines will provide potent antimicrobial functions by killing the microorganisms. Based on our preliminary results, the antimicrobial activity will not be affected by soils/blood, and it can last for months to years with good cytocompatibility. Further, users can periodically check the level of N-halamines on the textiles with potassium iodine (KI) strips, and if the tests show that the covalently bonded chlorine contents are below the recommended level (to be determined in this study), the lost chlorines can be recharged by a bleach rinse during laundering. The recharging can be repeated as needed through the entire service life of the textiles.
The specific aims of this project are to: (1) covalently bind N-halamines onto healthcare service textile materials and characterize the physical/mechanical properties of the new materials; (2) evaluate in vitro the antimicrobial performance under simulated in-use conditions, the cytotoxicity of the new materials and the risk of microbial resistance to the materials. The outputs of this project will be publications, reports, conference proceedings, and presentations/posters of the research results, and N-halamine-based antimicrobial fabrics as tools to reduce occupational exposure. The intermediate outcomes will include citations in the literature, inventions of new antimicrobial fabrics, and possible adoption of the new materials in practice, which can lead to the end outcomes of reduction in workplace hazardous exposures, addressing Research to Practice (r2p) by translating the new technologies to the HCSA sector to prevent/reduce HCP exposures to infectious agents and advance worker well-being.

Public Health Relevance

Healthcare service textiles can be rapidly and heavily contaminated/re-contaminated with pathogenic bacteria including multi-drug resistant organisms which can survive for weeks on the fabrics and easily transfer onto healthcare personnel (HCP)?s hands and other clean surfaces. There is a need for reduction of pathogens on textile surfaces, which should be an integral component of infection prevention to reduce the burden of exposure and protect HCP. This project will develop new antimicrobial textile technology that offers potent, long-lasting, monitorable and rechargeable antimicrobial activity under challenging in-use conditions with low risk of inducing microbial resistance, which will significantly reduce the occupational burden of HCP exposure to infectious agents and advance worker well-being in healthcare.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Safety and Occupational Health Study Section (SOH)
Program Officer
Karr, Joan
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Massachusetts Lowell
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code