Christmas Tree Needles Have Natural Antibacterial Properties

Douglas Fir looks pretty and kills pathogenic microbesDouglas Fir looks pretty and kills pathogenic microbesScientists often struggle to come up with artificial means to accomplish medical goals, when all the while nature has the answer.  Such an answer has been found in the Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menzietii, which not only happens to form an ideal shape for a Christmas tree, but also holds a very important biological agent in its needles - a natural antimicrobial.  

One of the most perplexing problems in biomedicine has been keeping infection away from the sites of newly implanted prosthetics and sensors. Silver nanoparticles have been tested for their use in coating medical implants, as silver has bactericidal properties. But researchers are trying to identify other materials that can deliver more efficient (cheaper) and effective protection.

Scientists at the Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad are using an extract of the Pseudotsuga menzietii in combination with silver nitrate solution to generate such protection.  When added to a chitosan polymer, the natural plant extract breaks down the silver ions in the nitrate into nanoscopic silver metal particles, the size and shape of which can be easily controlled. The resulting solution forms a protective coating around the implanted device that resists bacterial infections.

The full research article is published in the International Journal of Biomedical Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.