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Medical leather

Innovation in processing technologies to manufacture medical leathers, shoe upper/linings for increased health and comfort efficiency.

Microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, are omnipresent in the environment. These microorganisms rapidly colonise surfaces including clothing, footwear and other materials. For the most part, these microorganisms do not pose a risk to the health of the individuals that come into contact with them. However, immuno-compromised individuals, such as the elderly and infants, in certain scenarios, may be at risk of infection by these microorganisms. Wool-on sheepskins have long been used to promote the comfort of immobilised patients, e.g. the elderly or recuperating postoperative patients, and are superior to synthetic materials for the alleviation of pressure and the subsequent formation of pressure ulcers. However, prolonged immobilisation will give rise to pressure sores and bacterial infection of these sores may lead to severe disability of elderly patients. Additionally, wool-on skins are used extensively as nursing rugs for babies and infants. Microorganisms are also resident in footwear and clothing leathers and, in addition to causing unpleasant odours, give rise to a number of pathological conditions such as onychomycosis (nail fungus). A study of the fungal status and condition of the feet of a healthy population found a significant correlation between heavy footwear, dermatophyte fungi and dermatophytic conditions, e.g. tinea pedis (ringworm of the foot). Tinea pedis is the most common fungal infection worldwide and the mild form of the condition can evolve into dermatophytosis complex through bacterial super-infection. A number of bacteria were isolated from the feet of patients with foot intertrigo, a condition arising from a yeast infection. The presence of the organisms is reported to give rise to both local and potentially fatal systemic complications. However, while the microbiology of the foot has been well documented, very little is known about the microbiology of new and used footwear. Leather surfaces represent a mechanism for the transfer of pathogenic microorganisms to other surfaces and individuals. A fungal survey of a range of leather goods, including new and used shoes, identified 62 species of fungi, eighteen of which were mycotic species capable of causing primary skin infection. A study of infant salmonellosis linked occurrence of the disease to environmental contamination and showed that the pathogen was transported into homes on the soles of shoes. While most leather is treated with fungicides during processing, these compounds are applied to preserve part processed and finished leathers during storage. As such, they will not control colonisation of the surface of the leather by the pathogenic fungi. Additionally, these fungicidal compounds will not prevent or control the bacteria associated with the surface of the leather. Novel technologies to be developed for incorporating antimicrobial compounds into the leather matrix may be of benefit in the control of infective, pathogenic microorganisms associated with the use of leather products in medical, footwear and clothing applications. Therefore, the aim of the proposed project will be: The incorporation of antimicrobial compounds into the leather matrix to control and eradicate microorganisms associated with the surface of the leather. This aim will be achieved through the following objectives: 1. The isolation and identification of microorganisms associated with footwear and materials associated with patient care, and selection and evaluation of antimicrobials for the control and eradication of those microorganisms. 2. Assessment of different techniques for the incorporation of the selected antimicrobial compounds into the leather matrix and evaluation of both the antimicrobial and functional performance of the leather produced. 3. Pilot-scale assessment of the derived incorporation technologies for tannery-scale leather production followed by the application of protocols by the industrial partners. The achievements of the projects aim and objectives will be monitored and demonstrated by the successes in the laboratory-pilot plant and industrial trials of the development of the antimicrobial leather production technologies in collaboration with the industrial partners. In the case of inquiry from the industrial partners verification of the socio-economic and industrial benefits of the technology, in particular, the use of the technology for medical and footwear applications may be further studied by clinical and wear trials. Keywords: leather technology, footwear, fur technology.
Acronym: 
MEDICAL LEATHER
Project ID: 
3 229
Start date: 
01-02-2004
Project Duration: 
59months
Project costs: 
1 740 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Tanned leather process related to Footwear / Leather Technology
Market Area: 
Other medical/health related (not elsewhere classified)

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.