, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 2023–2034 | Cite as

Contact-active antibacterial multilayers on fibres: a step towards understanding the antibacterial mechanism by increasing the fibre charge

  • Josefin IllergårdEmail author
  • Lars Wågberg
  • Monica Ek
Original Paper


Contact-active antibacterial materials with irreversibly attached antibacterial agents have been developed as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional biocide treatments. Of particular interest are materials fabricated through the physical adsorption of charged polymers. This simple method allows for the use of water-based processes and materials originating from renewable sources, e.g., cellulosic fibres. Furthermore, by varying the process parameters, such as ionic strength, it is possible to tune the properties of the adsorbed polymer layer. However, the underlying antibacterial mechanism remains obscure, and this hinders the rational design of antibacterial multilayers. To gain further insight into the antibacterial mechanisms of physically adsorbed multilayers of polyvinylamine and polyacrylic acid, the surface charge of cellulose fibres was increased via radical oxidation. This oxidation increased the amount of polymer that was adsorbed and resulted in increased antibacterial efficacy against both Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis compared with polymer-modified unoxidised fibres. Electron microscopy analysis of the E. coli adhered to the fibres revealed that the multilayer treatment resulted in elongated bacteria with deformed cell walls. This work demonstrates the importance of electrostatic interaction to the antibacterial effect of polymer-modified fibres .


Antibacterial materials Contact-active  Antibacterial cellulose Antibacterial mechanism Polyvinylamine Polyelectrolyte multilayers Layer-by-layer Polymer adsorption 



BASF SE, SCA Hygiene Products AB and Sweden's Innovation Agency Vinnova are gratefully acknowledged for their financial support. The authors would also like to acknowledge Innventia AB for the use of the microbiology laboratory, the electron microscopy unit at Karolinska Institutet for the microscopy analysis and Anna Svensson at the Wallenberg Wood Science Center for assistance with the fibre oxidation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fibre and Polymer TechnologyKTH Royal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

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