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Device That Reduces Poultry Dust Has Added Benefit

By Sharon Durham
January 8, 2002

An electrostatic system that reduces airborne dust and microorganisms in poultry houses could also help sterilize Salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria in the dust, Agricultural Research Service scientists report.

That’s one added benefit of the system developed by ARS scientist Bailey Mitchell, who initially developed it in Athens, Ga. The system uses an electrostatic charge to trap airborne dust that harbors the organisms.

Since the initial studies in the early 1990s, Mitchell has found in new lab studies that the electrostatic charge seems to show a strong sterilizing effect on both airborne and surface Salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria. The kill rate on airborne and surface Salmonella enteritidis at close range has been 95 percent or more in a research setting. Ongoing work is necessary to determine efficacy in the commercial sector.

The system also has reduced biofilms up to 99.8 percent when used at close range. Biofilms are formed by pathogenic bacteria that stick to surfaces and then cover themselves with a protective coating. Scientists are still determining how much electrostatic charge is required to kill airborne and surface Salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria.

Lab studies also show the charge keeps surface dust near its source. For example, loose dust on the floor of a treated room tends not to become airborne, because as soon as it leaves the floor it is charged and re-attracted to the floor.

Originally, the system was designed to transfer a strong negative electrostatic charge to dust and microorganisms in an enclosed space and to collect the charged particles on grounded plates or on surfaces of a room. BioIon, Inc., an Athens, Ga., company, collaborated with Mitchell and holds the exclusive license to manufacture and market the technology.

The system has reduced Salmonella transmission and other airborne pathogens by 80 to 95 percent in experimental and commercial hatching cabinets. Airborne dust in poultry areas has been reduced by 50 to 95 percent. During continuing research, Mitchell soon found the other beneficial effects of the system.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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