Kevlar is great stuff. It's strong, lightweight and fire resistant, making it an ideal material for suits worn by firefighters, police and other emergency workers. It is used in everything from tires to body armor.

Now researchers plan to add germ-fighting to the list of Kevlar's virtues.

At University of South Dakota, Yuyu Sun and Jie Luo have developed a new method to coat Kevlar with a substance called acyclic N-Halamine. They tested it against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida tropicalis (a fungus), MS2 virus, and Bacillus subtilis spores (to mimic anthrax).

After a short time, large amounts of microorganisms stuck to untreated fabric samples, but the coated fabrics showed little to no adherence of the infectious agents. The coating is long-lasting and can be reactivated if needed, the scientist will report in the Aug. 6 issue of the American Chemical Society's journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

"The resultant fabric materials provided potent, durable, and rechargeable biocidal activities," the researchers write. "The excellent thermal and mechanical properties of the original Kevlar fabrics were successfully retained after the coating treatment."

The PMAA-based coating, as it's called, is said to have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antispore functions.

"Although more studies are needed to further evaluate the effectiveness of the coated Kevlar fabrics," the researchers write, "these findings point to the great potential of the PMAA-based coating approach for a broad range of real applications.