Title page for ETD etd-06112009-105356

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Kirkpatrick, Robin Duncan
URN etd-06112009-105356
Document Title The mechanism of antimicrobial action of electro-chemically activated (ECA) water and its healthcare applications
Degree PhD
Department Microbiology and Plant Pathology
Advisor Name Title
Prof T E Cloete Supervisor
  • electrolytic processes
  • conventional electrolysis
  • oxidation-reduction
  • electro-chemical activation
Date 2009-04-15
Availability unrestricted
The Electrochemical Activation (ECA) of water is introduced as a novel refinement of conventional electrochemical processes and the unique features and attributes are evaluated against the universal principles that have described the electrolytic processes to date. While the novel and patented novel reactor design retains the capacity to generate products common to conventional electrolysis, it also manipulates the properties of the reagent solutions to achieve an anomalous Oxidation-Reduction potential (ORP or REDOX) that cannot be replicated by traditional chemical and physical interventions. As a contemporary development in the field, the technology continues to undergo rigorous assessment and while not all of its theoretical aspects have been exhaustively interrogated, its undisputed biocidal efficacy has been widely established.

Microbial vitality has been shown to be directly dependent upon the confluence of a diverse variety of physical and chemical environmental conditions. Fundamentally important in this regard is the electronic balance or REDOX potential of the microbial environment. The intricate balance of metabolic pathways that maintain cellular integrity underwrites the measures of irritability required for sustained viability. Aside from the direct effects of the conventional electrolysis products, overt electronic disruption of the immediate microbial environment initiates a cascade of secondary and largely independent autocidal molecular events which compromise the fundamental integrity of the microbe and leads to cell death.

The distinctive capacity to impart unique physicochemical attributes to the ECA derived solutions also facilitates the characterisation of the same outside of the conventional physicochemical and gravimetric measures. These adjunct measures display a substantial relationship with the predictability of antimicrobial effect, and the direct relationship between inactivation of a defined microbial bioload and the titratable measures of REDOX capacity have been shown to describe a repeatable benchmark.

The use of ultra-microscopy to investigate the impact of the ECA products on bacterial cell structures has shown this tool to have distinctive merit in the imaging and thus refined description of the consequences of exposure to biocidal solutions.

The distinctive differences of the ECA solutions relative to conventional antibacterial compounds would suggest a heightened suitability for application in conditions where the efficacy of conventional biocidal compounds had been limited. Aeroslisation of the ECA solutions for the decontamination of airspaces challenged with tuberculosis pathogens revealed that despite initial success, further refinements to the application model will be required to meet the unresolved challenges.

The health care benefits associated with the application of the ECA solutions in a medical environment substantiate the merits for the adoption of the technology as a complementary remedy for the management of nosocomial infections. The relative novelty of the technology in the commercial domain will raise questions regarding the potential for resistance development, and it has been proposed that the distinctive mechanism of biocidal action will not contribute to diminished bacterial susceptibility, as it does not reveal any cross- or co-resistance when assessed against multiple antibiotic resistant strains.

These benefits are further reinforced by the capacity to install the technology for both onsite and on-demand availability, and being derived from natural ingredients (salt and water) the ECA solutions are regarded as safe and compatible for general in-contact use. Notwithstanding the multiple benefits that the technology may provide, further assessments into materials compatibility as well as potential by-products formation following environmental exposure are imperative before the unfettered adoption of this technology as a cost-effective, safe and reliable alternative to conventional disinfection can be promoted.

2009 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Kirkpatrick, RD 2009, The mechanism of antimicrobial action of electro-chemically activated (ECA) water and its healthcare applications, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-06112009-105356/ >


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