2014-088 – P-Phenylene Ethynylene Compounds as Bioactive and Detection Agents


Bacilli are an extremely diverse group of bacteria that include both the causative agent of anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) as well as several species that synthesize important antibiotics. The disease anthrax is a dangerous disease for livestock and humans. B. anthracis can be grown in an ordinary nutrient medium under aerobic or anaerobic conditions. B. anthracis spores are known to persist in contaminated soil for decades, making habitation of regions contaminated with spores of this potential biological warfare agent risky.

Bacillus atrophaeus (also known as Bacillus subtilis) is a related bacterium that can be used as a sterilization control strain. It can cause disease in immunocompromised patients, and can cause food poisoning, although it is also commonly found in the human gut and has been used as a probiotic nutrient. B. subtilis can also form very persistent spores that can remain viable for many years, and is resistant to stressful environmental conditions such as drought, salinity, radiation, organic solvents, and pH extremes. Due to the durability of this bacterial strain, it has been approved under military specifications as a sterilization control strain. In other words, if sterilization conditions kill B. atrophaeus, they will likely kill most other bacteria. In today’s market, more effective means of sterilization of materials contaminated with B. anthracis or B. atrophaeus/subtilis is needed so sites can be decontaminated and rendered suitable for keeping animals and for human populations.

Technology Description

Researchers at the University of New Mexico have developed a novel use of cationic oligio(p-phenylene-ethynylene) (OPE) oligomers and polymers to induce germination of B.atrophaeus spores. Antibiotic compounds can kill mature bacteria, but certain species like B. anthracis and B. atrophaeus can lie dormant in the form of highly durable and antibiotic-resistant spores. Through the use of the cationic OPEs, spore germination is induced and the resulting mature bacteria are now susceptible to the antibiotic agents. Thus, contaminated materials, such as soil, can be effectively sterilized.


  • Effective method for controlling a bacterial population
  • Decontaminates materials
  • Increases livable areas for animal or human populations – biological warfare test sites can be suitable for habitation once again
  • Induces germination of spore-forming bacteria

Potential Applications

  • Sterilization
  • Decontamination
  • Biological Warfare Sites

Contact Information

Name : Gregg Banninger

Email: GBanninger@innovations.unm.edu

Phone: 505-272-7908