Insect Wing Kills Bacteria

The nanoscale structure of a clanger cicada’s wings destroys threatening microbes on contact.

By Jef Akst | March 6, 2013

A redeye cicada (Psaltoda moerens )WIKIMEDIA, FIR0002/FLAGSTAFFOTOSIt’s one of the first natural surfaces found to kill bacteria simply by virtue of its physical structure, Nature reported: an array of hexagonal “nanopillars” on the wings of a clanger cicada (Psaltoda claripennis) can put enough strain on bacterial cells to rupture them. The findings, published last month (February 19) in Biophysical Journal, detail how this nanoscale structure can be so deadly.

Elena Ivanova of Australia's Swinburne University of Technology and colleagues found that the nanopillars do not puncture the bacteria. The structures look more like blunted spikes when viewed on the scale of bacteria, which stick to the tips of the nanopillars, then stretch into the hexagonal spaces between them, putting extreme strain on the cell.

“[It’s like] the stretching of an elastic sheet of some kind, such as a latex glove,” Ivanova told Nature. “If you take hold of a piece of latex in both hands and slowly stretch it, it will become thinner at the center, [and] will begin to tear.”

The nanoscale defense only appears to work on bacteria with relatively soft membranes, however; those with greater membrane rigidity could survive the stretch of the pillars.

The study does hint at a new strategy for antibacterials, chemical engineer Anne-Marie Kietzig of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who was not involved in the study, told Nature. Commonly contaminated materials, such as public railings, she said, could be made to mimic the structure. “This would provide a passive bacteria-killing surface. . . . [It] does not require active agents like detergents, which are often environmentally harmful.”

(See the Nature story for an animation of how the nanopillars can burst bacterial cells.)

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Avatar of: Jeruman


Posts: 1

April 2, 2013

Hi, this is a really good article and discovery, yet, Islam got this 1400 years back.. no show off, but we know that if you find a fly or whatso ever flying insect in a bowl of food, you better dip all and then remove it as on a wing is the poison and on the other wing is the anti poison.

Thank you.

Avatar of: flywing


Posts: 1

June 28, 2013

This article doesn’t talk about one wing is the poison and the other wing is the anti-poison. This article also doesn’t imply or even suggest that people should eat or drink after a fly touches the food or drink.  Flies transmit serious diseases. This article talks about fly’s wings structure that has properties to rupture bacteria. How an educated person could even think that hadith about fly’s wings could be anything near scientific? It is absurd to justify a hadith and Islam from this article.

Avatar of: gimmy


Posts: 1

April 24, 2016

This kind of flies live only in south east Australia and nowhere else. so it has nothing to do with saudi arabia. aslo there is no cure in a wing nor a desease in the other!

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