Zinc oxide nanoparticle suspensions and layer-by-layer coatings inhibit staphylococcal growth

Nanomedicine. 2016 Jan;12(1):33-42. doi: 10.1016/j.nano.2015.10.002. Epub 2015 Oct 27.


Despite a decade of engineering and process improvements, bacterial infection remains the primary threat to implanted medical devices. Zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO-NPs) have demonstrated antimicrobial properties. Their microbial selectivity, stability, ease of production, and low cost make them attractive alternatives to silver NPs or antimicrobial peptides. Here we sought to (1) determine the relative efficacy of ZnO-NPs on planktonic growth of medically relevant pathogens; (2) establish the role of bacterial surface chemistry on ZnO-NP effectiveness; (3) evaluate NP shape as a factor in the dose-response; and (4) evaluate layer-by-layer (LBL) ZnO-NP surface coatings on biofilm growth. ZnO-NPs inhibited bacterial growth in a shape-dependent manner not previously seen or predicted. Pyramid shaped particles were the most effective and contrary to previous work, larger particles were more effective than smaller particles. Differential susceptibility of pathogens may be related to their surface hydrophobicity. LBL ZnO-NO coatings reduced staphylococcal biofilm burden by >95%. From the Clinical Editor: The use of medical implants is widespread. However, bacterial colonization remains a major concern. In this article, the authors investigated the use of zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO-NPs) to prevent bacterial infection. They showed in their experiments that ZnO-NPs significantly inhibited bacterial growth. This work may present a new alternative in using ZnO-NPs in medical devices.

Keywords: Biofilm; Layer-by-layer; Nanoparticles; Staphylococcus; Zinc oxide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Bacterial Adhesion / drug effects
  • Bacterial Adhesion / physiology
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible / administration & dosage*
  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible / chemical synthesis
  • Materials Testing
  • Metal Nanoparticles / administration & dosage*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional
  • Staphylococcus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus / physiology
  • Suspensions
  • Zinc Oxide / administration & dosage*
  • Zinc Oxide / chemistry


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible
  • Suspensions
  • Zinc Oxide