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How Bleach Kills Bacteria

November 22, 2008
clipped from www.ns.umich.edu
Clean results: U-M researchers learn how bleach kills bacteria
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Developed more than 200 years ago and found in households around the world, chlorine bleach is among the most widely used disinfectants, yet scientists never have understood exactly how the familiar product kills bacteria.
“As so often happens in science, we did not set out to address this question,” said Jakob, an associate professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology. “But when we stumbled on the answer midway through a different project, we were all very excited.”
Jakob and her research team figured out that bleach and high temperatures have very similar effects on proteins. Just like heat, the hypochlorite in bleach causes proteins to lose their structure and form large aggregates.
“Many of the proteins that hypochlorite attacks are essential for bacterial growth, so inactivating those proteins likely kills the bacteria,”
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