Cleanliness is hugely important in any hospital, but keeping these sprawling sites free from germs and bacteria is no easy task — and that's why any ways in which the buildings can keep themselves hygienic are a massive help to staff and patients. Enter a new brand of paint from Sherwin-Williams, which can automatically kill off bacteria, according to reports.

Called Paint Shield, the microbicidal paint can kill infection-causing bacteria after just two hours of exposure, Sherwin-Williams says. 99.9 percent of bugs — including those responsible for MRSA and E. coli — can be eradicated from the surfaces before the cleaning team even gets to work. Existing infectious bacteria are killed off and the future growth of common microbes is inhibited as well, and the paint can be effective for up to four years.

"Paint Shield is one of the most significant technological breakthroughs in our nearly 150 year history of innovation," said Chris Connor, the chairman and chief executive of Sherwin-Williams, in a statement released to the press. "By killing infectious pathogens on painted surfaces, Paint Shield is a game-changing advancement in coatings technology."

It's arrived not a moment too soon: according to data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four percent of patients in the United States contract at least one infection during the course of their hospital care. Sherin-Williams says it has been busy working with scientists and expert microbiologists in order to produce the paint, which is going to be available from next year.

If you're thinking of redecorating a hospital of your own, Paint Shield comes in 590 colours for you to choose from. It can potentially be applied on hard interior non-porous ceilings, walls, doors and trim, not only in hospitals but also in healthcare facilities, athletics venues, day care centres, homes for the elderly and cruise ships.

"Continued progress in combating HAIs [hospital-acquired infections] will require a broad array of measures, including passive methods that are less dependent on human intervention," commented Steve Revnew of Sherwin-Williams. "By continuing to kill MRSA and other bacteria, even after repeated contamination, Paint Shield offers hospitals and other facilities an important new tool to help in the fight against the spread of HAIs."

The Paint Shield product still needs to be tested in real-world settings and must meet various health and safety guidelines before it can be used on a large scale, however. If it gets the all-clear for hospital use, it could help in significantly reducing the number of patients who pick up infections while trying to get better.