What is Bioactive Paper?
Although these papers do not exist yet, Canadian research is taking a leadership role in the development of bioactive paper. The Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network is moving closer to solutions that have strong potential to improve the health and safety of not only residents of Canada and other industrialized nations but also developing countries.
Envision, paper that can signal wide-ranging contamination through colour indication while actively removing the unwanted organisms, such as E. coli and Pythium. The approach will be to use special proteins attached to the structure of the paper which will combine a cellulose-binding domain and an antibody to bind pathogens and other contaminants.
Why the need for Bioactive Paper?
Approximately 76-million food-borne illnesses occur each in the United States, accounting for more than 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths [Mead et al., 1999]. Most of these illnesses are caused by Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes. As a result, annual medical expenditures related to these pathogens currently exceed $7-billion US. Consumer education coupled with reliable and simple pathogen detection in food products offers the best method for dramatically reducing the frequency of occurrence of these illnesses
A potential product for bioactive paper could be a paper towel that is used to wipe down a potentially contaminated food preparation surfaces. With one swipe, this paper towel can detect the presence of bacteria.
In the developing world, the water is often of questionable quality, forcing the local population to try rudimentary filtration systems, such as the use of unsanitary cloth in a vain attempt to create potable water. This method is obviously not reliable and the results are rarely safe for consumption, particularly after floods and other natural disasters. Think of the benefits of a bioactive paper strip which, when dipped in small containers of water, can remove pathogens and give the user a colour indication that the water is safe.
The Sentinel vision of bioactive paper includes a pathogen recognition agent on or in the paper structure that will specifically bind to pathogens resulting in a binding event that will produce a detectable response.
Another potential use of bioactive paper includes the creation of face masks that protect health care workers by actively binding viruses and anchoring them to the filter surface which would prevent them from passing through the filter’s pores.