New Soap For The NHS Biology Essay

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I am working for a company to develop a new soap for the NHS. This soap would be used by doctors and nurses who are likely to pass on bacteria as they move from patient to patient. To do this I must test for the most effective and cost effective way of producing soap and find a suitable anti bacterial to ensure I create the best product in terms of health and safety for the customers. This will allow me to produce the most effective soap making method.


To find the most efficient method of making soap.

To find the most effective anti bacterial.

To critically evaluate my product and ensure no problems have occurred.

Background Information

MRSA was discovered in 1961 in the UK and made its first appearance in the United States in 1981 among intravenous drug users. It has been a major problem in the past ten years when the number of different types of bacteria become resistant too antibiotics and anti bacterial cleaning products. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) also known as the super bug.

Between 2005-2007 the number of deaths associated with MRSA increasingly dropped and reduced even further in 2008 in England and Wales. This therefore indicates the number of effective bacterial agents are being invented.

Problems in the NHS:

Methicillin- resistant staphylococcus (MRSA) is a species of bacterium commonly found on the skin of humans. It occasionally gets into the body through breaks in the skin such as cuts and causes infections. The infections can vary from mild (boils and pimples) to more severe cases (infection of the blood stream, bones or joints). MRSA is one bacteria which is responsible for many difficult to treat infections in humans that other antibacterial substances fail to treat. This is because MRSA is a strain of bacteria, resistant to a large group of antibiotics called beta- lactams.

Other Bacteria

There are many other types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, an example being Vancomycin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (VRSA). This bacteria is a strain of staphylococcus aureus that is no longer affected by the antibiotic vancomycin, this is because the VRSA strain has the effect of causing the cell walls to thicken that reduces the number of vancomycin that are able to kill the bacteria. The majority of people that are infected with VRSA have minor symptoms such as pimples and boils as well as other skin problems; these can be treated without the need for antibiotics. If the infection is more serious then the symptoms are more severe, for example bloodstream infections and pneumonia, the treatment of these is trickier because of the resistance to the various antibiotics. The people most vulnerable to the VRSA infection are people that have other illnesses', people who are in hospital with tubes entering their bodies or people with open wounds. VRSA is spread via things such as hand contact and open wounds, much like MRSA, this means that the spread of it can be reduced through things such as general cleanliness and hand hygiene. VRSA can spread to patients that are seen to be healthy, which is like MRSA.

Bacteria In Schools

Only certain types of bacteria are available for use in schools for the use of experiments. This does not mean there are no risks so many safety precautions have to be taken and strict guidelines must be followed. Why are they describing these four bacteria?

E.coli - this is mostly found in warm-blooded organisms in their lower intestine. Some strains have the effect of causing serious food poisoning in humans. This bacterium can be easily grown; it can be easily manipulated and duplicated, as its genetic information is simple. It is found naturally in humans as the harmless strains are found in the gut and benefit the person by preventing the production of pathogenic bacteria in the intestine.

M.luteus - It grows in the mouth of humans and the upper respiratory tract, this has the potential to lead to urinary tract infections if the person has an immune deficiency. It is known to encourage diseases, for example pneumonia and meningitis, but is not considered a pathogen. People who don't wash their hands properly can transmit this bacteria and it can cause serious itching that leads to the skin becoming inflamed. This bacterium grows on a nutrient agar and is known for breaking down the sweat cells that causes odour in humans.

C.lividum -

S.epidermis - this bacterium is part of the skin and even though it is most normally non-pathogenic the patients with a weaker immune system are more at risk of developing an infection. Hospitals have more virulent strains because of the constant use of antibiotics so the infections can be a result of treatment in hospital.

You should continue using subheadings

Bacteriostatic agents impair the growth of the bacteria whereas bactericidal agents kill the bacteria. Disinfectants, antiseptics and antibiotics are examples of bactericides. Disinfectants work via a process known as disinfection where they are applied to non-living objects and kill microorganisms. In more detail disinfection is where most or all of the pathogenic organisms that have the potential to cause infection are cleaned from an article. There are a very small number of disinfectants that can kill 100% of the bacteria that may be on a surface; also the disinfectants tend to be very harmful and toxic. However disinfectants that can be used in the home and in hospitals have been developed so they aren't harmful.

Soap-like substances have been around since during the times of Ancient Babylon (around 2800 BC) where boiled fats with ashes were used to make their version of soap, then later on the Egyptians used animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts for washing. However soap making began to become established in Europe, the ingredients of soap didn't change but over time colour and fragrance began to be added, this began in the 7th century. They were also in the form of bars and liquids, as soap began to develop more luxury ones were produced that used olive oil instead of animal fats. As the 18th century came around people gained a better knowledge of bacteria so hygiene became more important and the problems that were caused by it became more apparent. This resulted in the first manufactured batches of soap that were industrially made, this has led to soap becoming more of a luxury item as it can come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, colours and fragrances. Soaps are now available to every skin type, and come in a range of different intensities for example ones for sensitive skin and others that need to be tougher to remove to get rid of grease and dirt. Soap molecules are adapted for cleaning as they have a hydrophobic part that is able to clean grease, as it isn't attracted to water, and a hydrophilic part that is attracted to water so is able to dissolve in it.

Using different oils can make different types of soap; this is because each type of oil has different properties. For example:

Coconut oil - lasts longer so is adapted well for storage, suitable for people with dry and itchy skin, when 30% of this oil is used in the soap it acts as a good moisturiser but too much can dry out the skin, and a hard cleansing is produced when one is made with this oil. (Oleic acid - 6%)

Avocado oil - the soap that is produced absorbs right into the skin very easily, it is said to have anti-bacterial properties, it is moisturising and can aid the healing of flaky and dry skin. (Oleic acid - 66%)

Olive oil - the soap produced has a conditioning lather, it is adapted for people with sensitive skin, it aids cell regeneration, and the moisture is held in by this soap as it creates a layer around the skin that the soap is used on. (Oleic acid - 72%)

Grape seed oil - this soap produced is better for acne prone/oily skin, however it should be used in smaller bits and has a shorter shelf life, has the benefit of reducing the visibility of stretch marks and relieves dry and itchy skin. (Oleic acid - 20%)

Soap is produced through a chemical reaction called Saponifaction; natural soaps are made from the sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids, made by boiling animal fat with lye and potassium hydroxide. Hydrolysis then occurs which produces glycerol and crude soap. Oleic acid is found in many plants and animal products and is a monounsaturated fatty acid. Within the oils that make the soap the Oleic acid reacts to form the soap so obviously if there is more of the Oleic acid then there is more soap made.

Soap can be made using two main methods, these being the hot process and the cold process. For the saponification process to take place heat is needed. During the hot process the lye and fat are boiled together at 80-100 degrees Celsius, and this continues until the saponifaction process starts. Salts are then added to precipitate the soap from the solution, the liquid that is excess is then drained. The soap is then put into moulds; this is because the soap is still warm and therefore soft so easier to manipulate. Saponifaction values are used in the cold process to see how much lye is needed to form the soap, the soap can become damaging to the skin if too much lye is used, as the pH is too high, but if too little lye is used then the soap formed is too greasy. The correct amount of lye is then dissolved in water, then the needed oils are heated and both mixtures are left to cool off to approximately 40 degrees Celsius. They can then be combined and mixed, after this any fragrances or essential oils can be put into the mixture and it is then put into the specific moulds that are wanted. The saponification process then carries on for the next 18 hours to two days, whilst this is happening warm towels to keep it insulated cover the mixture. The process will then have come to an end so it is safe for the soap to be cut into bars after being removed from the moulds.

Agar plates are used to enable scientists to research the different types of bacteria safely, they do this by growing and reproducing their own bacteria. This also lets them see how the bacteria develop and how they can react. Agar plates are sterile Petri dishes that hold a growth medium. Restrictive or selective agar plates are ones that allow only one specific subset of an organism to grow and permissive agar plates allow the growth of whatever organism is present. The preparation of the agar plates is relatively simple as the majority of the types of agar can be purchased in a previously prepared powder. The biggest issue with agar plates is the fact they need to be made using a sterile technique. When preparing an agar plate your hands need to be vigorously washed with antimicrobial soap with hot water, you also need to make sure that the surface has been completely wiped down with ethanol. A Bunsen burner is needed for the sterilisation part; it needs to be set to the gentle blue flame and away from any flammable substances. To make the agar it has to be heated at around 95 degrees Celsius before it is able to dissolve in water, it is common practise to boil the agar in distilled water before it is sterilised, also when boiling the agar it always has to be done in a water bath. However sometimes the agar needn't be boiled and only soaked in distilled water for up to 15 minutes and then mixed really well. If a large amount of agar is needed then it is best to split the agar into smaller amounts such as 100ml or 200ml medical flats before it is sterilised. If the agar is in a number of flasks then pouring the agar is much easier, the flasks need to be held in a water bath that is at 50 degrees Celsius. Condensation on the Petri dishes needs to be avoided as it can obstruct the view when observing the microorganisms. When opening packs of Petri dishes (that are sterile) they should be upside down, as this stops the accidental removal of a lid. Petri dishes are then placed along a bench in front of a lit Bunsen burner, and then each lid is lifted slightly and around 12ml of agar is poured into the dishes. The agar then sets at around 43 degrees Celsius and because the agar is at 50 degrees Celsius the process of pouring it into the Petri dishes needs to be done as fast as possible. The plates are then left for around 5 to 10 minutes; they can be stacked on top of each other at this point as this can help to prevent condensation. Before the agar plates can be thrown away they need to be made safe, this can be done by placing the plates inside an autoclave bag and then sterilising the bag by autoclaving at 121 degrees Celsius for around 15 minutes. The autoclaves will have cooled down and b ready to be thrown away at around 20 minutes and after. In terms of hospitals they use incinerators or if no autoclaves are accessible then a domestic cooker can be used.