The affordable, antimicrobial liquid when sprayed on the surface of PPEs and other surfaces makes them impervious to microbes, thus making the PPEs reusable.
The Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G) has developed an anti-microbial spray that can coat personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other surfaces to make them impervious to microbial (viral and bacterial) load. This will make PPEs reusable.
Frontline health workers across India are facing an acute shortage of PPEs whose surfaces can get contaminated with microbes. At present, PPEs are discarded after a single use.
The antimicrobial liquid has been developed by a research team headed by Biman Mandal, a professor of biosciences and bioengineering at the institute, and comprising PhD scholars Bibhas Bhunia and Ashutosh Bandopadhyay.
The product, for which a provisional patent has been filed by the institute, is now undergoing safety validation. Confirmatory tests of its antimicrobial properties, specifically against the novel coronavirus, will be carried out at a government facility before it is approved for use.
Professor Mandal said that the antimicrobial liquid, which is very affordable, can be sprayed on the surfaces of PPEs or the latter can be dipped in the liquid. The liquid immediately forms a protective layer on the surface of the PPE.
The protective layer formed by the antimicrobial liquid, said Mandal, kills microbes (viruses and bacteria).
“A strategic association of metal nanoparticle mix such as copper, silver and other active ingredients that are present in the liquid gives it the antimicrobial properties. The protective layer formed by the liquid prevents penetration and accumulation of microbial contaminants on surfaces,” said Mandal.
At present, PPEs can be used only once since their surfaces can get contaminated by microbes, including the novel coronavirus. PPEs can also cause secondary infections if other surfaces come in touch with them or the protocol for their disposal is not followed strictly.
The PPEs being used now are designed to protect the wearer from infectious microbes and aqueous virus droplets by acting as a barrier, but they do not have the ability to prevent the spread of microbes. The surface of a current PPE fabric allows accumulation of microbes and, hence, they are not reusable.
This innovation, said IIT-G in a statement, is readily deployable using available infrastructure with existing PPE manufacturers. The antimicrobial liquid can also be used to coat masks and other medical gear and equipment and will contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The IIT-G statement added that the antimicrobial liquid will “restrict spreading of microbes to fingers and other individuals due to negligent usage of masks and PPEs where users tend to touch them while removing”.
It will also reduce bioburden and transmission of the virus during and after disposal of PPEs and masks.
Team Also Develops More Comfortable Masks
The IIT-G team has also come up with another innovation that will make wearing of masks for a long period of time comfortable. Wearing of masks, especially in public places, has been made mandatory and this innovation will benefit millions of users.
IIT-G said in the statement that long-time usage of strapped and tight-fitting face masks is painful to the ears. “This has been a major concern with healthcare workers who have to wear these masks for hours during their duty cycle,” the statement read.
To address this critical issue, the research team has 3D printed an ‘Ear Guard’ prototype.
“The ergonomic design of the guard holds the face mask strap in a place without giving pressure to the ear. Therefore, masks can be worn effortlessly for hours without pain or discomfort to the wearer. Using 3D printers, these ‘Ear Guards’ are being made in a free size to fit all,” said the institute.
These are being printed at the Biomaterial and Tissue Engineering Laboratory of IIT-G using polymer resins. The ear guards are affordable, long-lasting and designed to give comfortable wearing experience. The institute said it is printing thousands of these ear guards to be distributed to hospitals across the region and India.