Can antiviral fabrics stop the spread of coronavirus?

    28-Jun-2020
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Oinam Roselyn Devi
As the world faces a stressful time with the rise of the Coronavirus pandemic, the world has carried out manyresearches for effective ways to prevent, treat, and cure COVID-19. Till now, medical experts and scientists have not yet found the medical solution to eradicate this pandemic. Meanwhile, many organizations across the globe including the World health organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Indian Ministry of Health have recommended the people to wear face masks in public places especially when it is hard to keep physical distance from others to prevent or slow down the spread of the deadly virus.
Deeply concerning the spread of coronavirus, people do follow norms for wearing a facemask in public places to prevent themselves from contacting the air disease. However, most of the masks which are available in the markets block the viral particles but the fabric of the mask doesn’t kill the virus. A used and discarded mask can even become a vector for disease as a pathogen and multiply in its fabric; for this reason, many start-up companies and research institutions across the countries have started making facemask and PPEs out of antiviral fabric.
Swiss Innovator HeiQ has launched an antiviral and antimicrobial textile treatment called HeiQViroblock NPJ01, which is proven effective against human coronavirus (229E) in face mask testing. In an interview of CNN Money Switzerland with CEO of HeiQ “Carlo Centonze”, CEO has mentioned that the mask which is developed by this technology significantly reduced 99.99% of virus infectivity. Additionally, it improved reduction of virus infectivity against several types of influenza (H1N1, H5N1, H7N9) and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). The technology can be applied to a wide spectrum of textile surface such as on masks, gloves, gowns and PPE, etc.
Besides, the ILTV Israel news documented that Israel based company called “Sonovia” had created a washable anti-viral fabric that kills bacteria and viruses upon contact. This company uses soundwaves to impregnate the surface of the fabric with metallic nanoparticles like zinc oxide, and copper oxide into the textile for facemasks and other protective products. These developed antiviral fabrics were tested in the Microspectrum lab (Weipu Jishu) in Shanghai confirmed that the antival fabric can neutralize over 90 per cent of the corona virus. Further, the company has developed the facemask called “Sonomask” using this technology and the effect remains after the facemask was washed up to 100 times. According to company data, the mask filters 98% of particles of up to 5 microns in compliance with WHO standards. The filtering rate is higher than the capabilities of the N95 masks.Large quantities of Sonomask were donated to hospitals in Israel and Germany, and nonprofit charitable organizations in Israel, France, Germany, South Africa and Australia
Another Israeli company known as Argaman developed antiviral mask called “Bioblock”.This mask not only blocks the virus but also kills 99% of all viruses including the coronavirus. This mask is a 5 layer hypoallergenic (unlikely to cause an allergenic reaction) antimicrobial facemask made from cotton, copper and cutting edge materials. Now, this is commercially available and the cost is $50.
In an attempt to safeguard healthcare workers and citizens from coronavirus, recently, Indian company known for synthetics, cottons and worsteds textiles, ”Grado” have launched anti-viral and anti-bacterial fabric that can repel viruses and shield the wearer from infections by using neo-tech technology.This fabric can retain its properties up to even 50 washes and is suited for everyday wear. It can tailor into garments such as suits, jackets and trousers as required by the customers. The company had launched this fabric earlier but now they have increased the resistance to the bacteria and viruses much more.
One month before, IIT Delhi has launched an antimicrobial and washable facemask called “Nsafe mask” that can be reused up to 50 launderings. Nsafe mask is a highly engineered triple-layered product consisting of inner hydrophilic layer for comfort a middle layer having antimicrobial activity and the outer most layer having water and oil repellent behaviour. Additionally, the mask has 99.2 per cent bacterial filtration efficiency (at 3 microns) with good breathability and splash resistance.
Apart from facemasks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is also an important way for frontline workers to combat the transmission of the virus. PPEs that are being used presently are designed to protect the wearer from infectious microbes/aqueous virus droplets, acting as a barrier. However, these PPE generally, cannot prevent the spread of microbes as the surface of the fabric readily allows adherence and accumulation of microbes with time. This leads to further spread of the microbes due to the negligent handling of PPE and wrong disposal protocols.
The NDTV news reported that a team of researchers from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have developed an affordable antimicrobial spray-based coating for Personal Protection Equipment’s (PPE) kits to kill and prevent the spread of microbes once they come in contact with the coated PPE surface. Besides, IIT-Madras developed a technology that can coat nanoparticle-based antimicrobial agent on the fabric used to make PPE for frontline health workers. These coatings are expected to be effective up to 60 wash cycles. These coated textiles can be used to manufacture N95 masks, surgical masks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and food packaging bags, among others, with inherent properties of inactivating the virus.
The antiviral fabrics increase protection to the wearer, rather than fully blocking infection. “This is something that protects you much more, but it’s not enough”. You still have to wash your hands, wear your face mask and do…..social distancing.
About the author:
Oinam Roselyn Devi is a Research Scholar at Punjab Agricultural University. She carries out research in Apparel and Textile Science. Author can be reached at [email protected]