For germophobes, clutching a public doorknob can be a nerve-racking experience. But one Manitoba-based inventor says he has a handle on ending the spread of germs.

Doug Olson, CEO of Outbreaker Solutions Inc., has created bacteria-killing door handle covers made of compressed salt blocks -- the same kind that livestock lick for nutrients. Olson says that he got the idea while watching a television show on threats to humanity.

“The number one threat was a bacteria-based plague,” he told CTV Winnipeg.

Soon after that spark, Olson enlisted the help of University of Alberta researchers to see if salt could in fact work as an antibacterial. The results, which were published in the Journal of Hospital Infection last year, were exciting, Olson says.

“It literally sucks the moisture out of that cell and kills it,” he said.

University of Manitoba microbiologist Denice Bay says that process is called osmosis. But she cautions that Olson’s salt handles may not be a silver bullet in the fight against infectious disease.

“It was exciting, but it was highly preliminary,” Bay said of the Journal of Hospital Infection findings.

The study, Bay said, only looked at methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus -- also known as MRSA bacteria. She would like to know how other kinds of bacteria, especially those that thrive in salt-rich environments, would fare against the handles.

"The only danger with introducing something that's antiseptic is that when you kill off your competitors, you can allow other competitors to establish," Bay said.

Olson’s personal chiropractor, however, has used the handle covers in his Edmonton-area office for five years now.

“I have a hundred different people every day touching the doors,” Alan Alton said. “It just gives you peace of mind.”

For Olson, even making a small difference in the war against germs would make his work worthwhile.

"Even if we prevent five per cent spread, that could affect thousands of lives,” he said.

Olson’s invention has already been patented in 16 countries, including Canada and the U.S. He hopes that his ‘Outbreaker’ door handles will be commercially available this fall.

Still, according to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the best ways to stop the spread of germs is to simply wash your hands.

With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Michelle Gerwing