Reading the latest news out of the American Chemical Society conference, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, I'm reminded of that TV commercial that shows a person wiping a counter top with raw chicken, a satirical demonstration of how bacteria is spread in the kitchen.
With a wipe of a revolutionary new type of napkin, you'll be able to determine whether a dangerous microbe is lurking on your kitchen counter or the dirty-looking spoon at a restaurant, scientists hope.
Researchers from Cornell University's College of Human Ecology are developing the new type of napkin made from "nano" fibers -- as small as 100 billionths of a meter wide -- that are coated with antibodies, proteins and dyes.
If their plans pan out, the napkin will change to a certain color when you wipe it on a contaminated surface.
In preliminary tests, the napkin has successfully identified a known type of bacterium -- Escherichia coli, or E. coli -- by turning yellow.
Unlike other techniques for spotting killer bugs, some of which require highly sensitive, expensive instruments, the napkin-wiping method promises "rapid and easy use," Cornell scientist Margaret Frey explained. And no highly trained specialist is required, she added. "Anybody who knows how to use a napkin could use this."