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Researchers to develop antiviral coating for facemasks that can destroy Covid-19 within an hour

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 15, 2021 Published on February 15, 2021

Cambridge University researchers are working to develop an antiviral coating technology called DioX that can kill coronavirus within an hour for face mask users.

According to the report by The Daily Telegraph, the invisible coating on the facemasks kills the virus by rupturing its outer layer.

This has the potential to obliterate all the mutated strains of the virus. This includes the United Kingdom’s Kent variant and the South African variant.

“The antiviral agent within the coating of the mask kills the virus by breaching its protective outer membrane, which is known as its envelope,” Dr Graham Christie, senior lecturer at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge, told the newspaper.

He added, “Unlike other parts of the virus, the membrane remains the same regardless of any type of mutation. Hence this way of attacking the pathogen will work on any new variant of coronavirus.”

“In fact, you could mutate the entire genome of the virus and it would have no effect on the envelope. We expect to see the same response regardless of the strain of coronavirus because structurally they are all very similar,” he further noted.

The technology called DioX is based on quaternary ammonium salts. Ammonium salts are organic compounds commonly employed in the textile industry for their antimicrobial properties.

The results of the test demonstrated that the mask coated with it destroyed 95 per cent of pathogens on its surface within one hour, making them undetectable after four hours.

“The variants that we are seeing occur in the spike proteins that stud the surface of the virus rather than the membrane of the envelope,” said Dr Christie.

“It is the genetic information that encodes this protein that is mutating, and this is leading to very slight structural changes in the shape of the spike. However, the envelope is derived from part of a human cell that the virus grabs from its host in order to protect its genetic material. It is made from lipids, which unlike the proteins do not change,” he said.

The Telegraph reported that the mask can be reused and is washable up to 20 times. However, with every wash, the efficacy may get reduced.

During the study, the mask was tested on a coronavirus called MHV-A59, which is genetically and structurally very similar to SARS-CoV-2.

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Published on February 15, 2021
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