As the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, new ways in which to stop the spread or mitigate the effects of the disease are few.
A research team has discovered the ability of a combination of certain polymers and oligomers, when combined with UV light, to almost completely kill the coronavirus. Although disinfectants such as bleach or alcohol are effective against the virus, they are volatile and corrosive, which limit lasting sterilization of surfaces treated by these products. What is different about these polymer and oligomer materials is that when activated with UV light, they provide a coating that is shown to be fast-acting and highly effective, reducing the concentration of the virus by five orders of magnitude.
These materials have shown to have broad-spectrum antiviral properties. In order for the material to be active against the virus, it must be exposed to light. Light activates the “docking” process that is important and necessary for placing the oligomer or polymer at the surface of the virus particle, allowing the absorption of light that generates the reactive oxygen intermediate at the surface of the virus particle.
The materials are not active against SARS-CoV-2 in the dark and require activation by irradiation with ultraviolet or visible light, depending on where the specific antimicrobial absorbs light. In the dark, the antimicrobial materials dock with the virus and then on irradiation, they activate oxygen. It is this active, excited state of oxygen that starts the chain of reactions that inactivate the virus.
This science can easily be applied into consumer, commercial, and healthcare products such as wipes, sprays, clothing, paint, personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, and almost any surface. When incorporated into N95 masks, this material works well against the virus; in addition to trapping the virus in a mask, this would make for better PPE and prolong its life.
Another unique advantage of this material is that unlike traditional disinfectant products, it is shown to not wash away with water and leaves no toxic residue as a result of the photodegradation process. The material could be added into masks and other PPE, changing the game for businesses such as gyms, airlines, cruise ships, groceries, healthcare facilities, schools, and many more industries. In addition to coronavirus, these products could also help eliminate infections by the common cold, seasonal flu, and other viral and bacterial infections.