How can nature help? The question was posed by Australian researchers experimenting with nanometre-sized particles from black phosphorus.
These particles degrade in the presence of oxygen, triggering a chemical reaction which splits all but 1% of germ cells and makes them harmless. This was the case not just for E.Coli but for four other widespread pathogens.
No negative side effects were recorded, and wounds were quick to heal. The phosphorus flakes could be used in gels, or to help sterilise medical appliances.
Biopolymers from wood scraps can likewise be converted into natural antibiotics.