A versatile and straightforward process to turn plastics into antibacterial materials†
We demonstrate that antibacterial activity can be conferred to common plastic materials using amphiphilic cationic methacrylate-based block copolymers, specifically quaternized poly(butyl methacrylate)-b-poly(N,N-dimethyl-aminoethyl methacrylate) (PBMA-b-PDMAEMA) with 64 mol% of DMAEMA and Mn close to 20 000 g mol−1. With 0.5–2 wt% of these copolymers simply dispersed in the given matrix by extrusion, the modified materials prove to be active against E. coli, S. aureus, Listeria monocytogenes and enterohemorrhagic E. coli without toxicity against two cell lines, HaCaT and L929 fibroblasts, while keeping the mechanical properties of the materials intact. In addition, the study of the mechanism of action shows that the antibacterial materials target the bacterial membrane, which is expected to avoid antibacterial resistance. Our protocol is a cost-effective solution to generate antibacterial materials for several applications, including packaging or medical devices, without modification of the production process.