Scientists from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed "smart" disinfectants which not only destroy the coronavirus, but unlike other commonly used disinfectants that diminish rapidly, remains on surfaces for an extended period of time.
“The materials we developed will be a game changer because they will block the cycle of infection from contaminated surfaces,” said Assistant Prof. Shady Farah, head of the research group.
“Infection from touching surfaces is a serious problem, especially in public places such as hospitals, factories, schools, shopping malls and public transportation. Our polymers will make these places safer," Farah added.
The novel coronavirus can last on surfaces for an extended period of time, the length depending on several factors, which raises the need for a disinfectant that can also last on surfaces for long periods of time. Findings from the Diamond Princess cruise ship found that the virus can last on surfaces as long as 17 days.
Common disinfectant methods that have been used during the pandemic rely on hypochlorite solutions, more commonly known as household bleach. These solutions both evaporate quickly, and break down when exposed to UV lights such as the sun, requiring the need for surfaces to be disinfected several times a day.
Farah's research group has developed a disinfecting substance that is released in a controlled and continuous manner to make it longer lasting.
Before the pandemic, the research group was focused on developing polymers for medical use and smart drug delivery technologies.
Amid the early periods of the virus outbreak, the research group understood the need for a solution, and began developing special antiviral polymers that act on the virus in two ways. First, by altering and damaging its structure so that its infection capability is impaired, and second, by attacking and destroying the virus's envelope.
"Although this development was accelerated due to the current coronavirus crisis, in the future it will also be effective against other microorganisms. We are enriching the arsenal of tools available to us and adding a new family of disinfectants that release the active substance in a controlled manner. In this way, they remain effective for long periods of time," said Farah.
The new disinfectant technology is based on low cost and readily available materials. The development process involved interdisciplinary knowledge combing the fields of combinatorial chemistry, polymer engineering and controlled release.