Clothing for health personnel containing a coating that kills MRSA must lead to a decline in the number of infections in hospitals. Last year 3,087 infections in the Netherlands were caused by MRSA bacteria. The bacteria are resistant to almost all types of antibiotics and can only be defeated by very powerful medication. The bacteria are dangerous for people who have reduced immunity and they can be fatal. After South Holland, Gelderland was the province with the highest rate of infections. Outside the Netherlands, the problems with MRSA are considerably bigger. Germany had 600,000 infections last year.
At the request of DutchSpirit the fabric was developed by Schoeller (originally from Switzerland). The demand for a coating that kills MRSA came from a project team consisting of IMVO Textiel, MVO Nederland healthcare network, Radboud university medical center and Brabant Zorg (healthcare). According to director Erik Toenhake at DutchSpirit it took a year to develop the fabric, one that can also be used for hospital curtains. Toenhake: “Those curtains are perhaps a greater risk for transmitting the bacteria than the clothes. Everyone opens and closes them; staff, patients and visitors. And those curtains are washed less often than the clothes.”
Tests showed that the coating in the fabric still remains active after many wash cycles. Toenhake expects to find a larger market outside of the Netherlands. “In Europe, 25,000 people die each year from an infection with MRSA. If you know how to reduce the spread of infections, you will save lives. This is a huge opportunity for healthcare. In addition, the treatment of a single case of MRSA is very costly. Germany estimates these costs to be EUR 7,000 per case, in the US it amounts up to $140,000.”
The new fabric also has a different aspect: it is fully recyclable. Current hospital clothing is made of cotton and polyester, so it cannot be recycled and eventually will be burnt. For Toenhake that was a thorn in his side and the reason why he asked somebody to develop a fabric consisting of polyester only, which doesn’t feel sweaty and is easy to wear. Because of the special coating this new fabric feels cooler than the widely used polyester/cotton. According to Toenhake the fabric can also be used for other corporate wear. “So finally Heineken can recycle its corporate wear into new clothing or even into beer crates. Brilliant, isn’t it?”