Got stinky feet? ‘Breakthrough’ nanoparticle tech may just do away with that awful stench

LUGANO, Switzerland — When people imagined the year 2020 decades ago they usually predicted flying cars, advanced humanoid robots, and all types of other science-fiction gadgets. The reality of 2020 hasn’t been quite so bright and shiny, but scientists may have at least developed a new way to solve one of society’s smelliest problems: stinky feet.

If you or someone you know just can’t shake that odorous smell emanating from the feet, researchers suggest wearing socks coated in zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO-NPs). These specialized clothing items have shown the ability to prevent bromodosis (foot odor) and pitted keratolysis (a bacterial infection that leads to smelly feet).

Initially developed by the Royal Thai Airforce, these new socks were then tested by researchers at Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University in Thailand. Those trials confirmed that ZnO-NPs offer antibacterial properties, as well as an adequate level of safety and compatibility with human skin. In combination, these traits make it the “perfect compound” to use in various clothing items (especially socks) to do away with nasty smells before they even occur.

A total of 148 cadets at the Thai Naval Rating School took part in this project. Stinky feet and bacterial infections on the feet are common complaints in the military. For example, over a third of naval cadets in Thailand (38.5%) deal with foot lesions.

Cutting the odors and the embarrassment of stinky feet

Studied cadets wearing the ZnO-NP coated socks reported much fewer foul odors coming from their feet than other soldiers. Those with stinky feet also reported the smells having a more adverse effect on their daily life. Additionally, soldiers with bad smelling feet were more likely to develop pitted keratolysis.

“While completing an internship as a naval officer in the medical department, I saw a high number of foot infections in military personnel. I wanted to find a way to prevent and treat these fungal and bacterial infections and those conditions associated. Previous studies had demonstrated zinc oxide nanoparticles’s antibacterial properties therefore my professor Dr. Bunyaratavej, Dr. Leeyaphan and our research team wanted to test the efficacy of this new technology in a real-life setting,” explains lead author Dr. Punyawee Ongsri in a media release.

“Our results prove the efficacy of ZnO-NP-coated socks in preventing bromodosis and inhibiting the development of pitted keratolysis. These socks could provide a new primary prevention option for both military personnel and those susceptible to these embarrassing and unpleasant conditions. We are continuing our research with other textiles and hope to treat and prevent the growth of bacterial and fungal infections,” the naval officer and final year resident at Siriraj Hospital concludes.

This study was presented at the 29th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress.

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