Researchers in the United States have developed an inexpensive, tissue-nontoxic coating that reduces COVID-19 infectivity by up to 90%.
Researchers can develop an antiviral spray for fabrics using the coating described in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
“When you walk into a hospital, you want to know that the pillow you’re laying your head on is clean,” said study lead author Taylor Wright, a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia ( UBC) in Canada.
“This coating might take some of the worry out of frontline workers having personal protective equipment (PPE) with antimicrobial properties,” Wright said.
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During the research, scientists soaked a piece of fabric in a solution containing a bacteria-killing polymer containing a molecule that releases sterilizing forms of oxygen when exposed to light.
Ultraviolet (UV) light was then used to turn the solution into a solid, which attached the coating to the fabric.
“This coating has passive and active antimicrobial properties, killing microbes immediately on contact, which are then amplified when sunlight hits the fabric,” said study lead author Michael Wolf, a professor at the UBC.
According to the researchers, both components are safe for humans and the whole process takes about an hour at room temperature. In addition, the fabric becomes hydrophobic, which means microbes are less likely to stick to it. The treatment did not appear to affect the strength of the tissue, the researchers said.
In addition to cotton, polyester, denim and silk, the coating can be applied to almost any fabric, such as hospital fabrics, masks and sportswear, the researchers said.
The new method does not require chemical waste, high energy consumption or expensive equipment, unlike other similar technologies, it is relatively easy and affordable, they claim.
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“All we need is a beaker and a light bulb. I’m pretty sure I could do the whole process on a stovetop,” Wright said.
The researchers tested the coating’s insect-repellent abilities by immersing the treated fabric in bacterial soups containing Escherichia coli (E. Coli) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), two leading causes of hospital-acquired infections.
After 30 minutes, 85% of the E Coli bacteria remained viable, but this percentage dropped to 3% when the tissue was exposed to green light for the same period. The number of viable MRSA bacteria remained at 95%, falling to 35% under the green light. There were no more bacteria after four hours.
They also investigated whether the coating reduced the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 by immersing the treated tissues in a solution of the viral particles and then adding them to live cells to see if they could infect them.
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They found that the passive properties were not effective against the virus, but exposure to green light for two hours reduced SARS-CoV-2 infectivity by up to 90%.
“In other words, only a tenth of the amount of viral signal was detected on cells infected with UV- and light-treated virus,” said study co-author François Jean, Professor at UBC.
(With agency contributions)