What do Egyptians have in common with antimicrobial? No, they did not invent Purell! But, they were the first known society to use antimicrobial properties to survive.
Antimicrobial agents go back 2,000 years, starting with ancient Egyptians and Greeks who used certain mold and plant extracts to treat infections (think Khal Drogo in “Game of Thrones” — if he used mold, maybe he would have survived). These were common practices through the Middle Ages, but let’s leap forward to 1928, when Alexander Fleming became the first to discover a natural antimicrobial fungus: penicillium rubens. What did this turn into? Penicillin! Anyone who has had strep throat or pneumonia is forever in Fleming’s debt!
Let’s time warp once more to 2008. This is the year that antimicrobial plastics were invented. At first, they were used in hospitals, but now antimicrobial products are widespread, even being found in fabrics and ceramics.
So the big question is, what exactly is antimicrobial?
Antimicrobial: destroying or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms - Merriam-Webster
In layman’s terms, the surface does not allow germs to reproduce. What happens if germs can’t reproduce? They die. What an amazing concept: kill the germs before they get to you! Can you imagine if the Egyptians had this technology? There would have been a lot more mold sitting around without a purpose!
So how does the antimicrobial surface do this? A silver ion is built into the product, inhibiting germs from reproducing. It cannot be washed or worn away. Granted, this does not mean that you can stop cleaning, but it does mean that if the sick guy in your office has been touching everything without washing his hands, you have much better chance of not getting sick.
So, whether you have been singing the Bangles classic, “ Walk Like an Egyptian,” or imagining Steve Martin dancing to “King Tut” while you have been reading this blog (I sure have been while writing it), the Egyptians were on to something with antimicrobial, and we should follow their lead!