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Scientists Develop Anti-Coronavirus Surface Coating Based on Nanomaterials

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 06 May 2020
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Image: Esti Toledo and Guillaume Le Saux at Dr. Mark Schvartzman`s laboratory (Photo courtesy of Dani Machlis)
Image: Esti Toledo and Guillaume Le Saux at Dr. Mark Schvartzman`s laboratory (Photo courtesy of Dani Machlis)
Scientists at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Be'er Sheva, Israel) have developed an anti-coronavirus surface coating based on nanomaterials of anti-viral and anti-bacterial metal ions and polymers.

In light of the possibility that the coronavirus can spread through contaminated surfaces, it is important to be able to sterilize surfaces with high contamination potential, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons or handrails in public areas in general, and in hospitals and clinics in particular. However, current disinfectants are mainly based on chemicals such as poisonous sodium hypochlorite (bleach) or alcohol, both of which provide only a temporary measure until the next exposure to the virus.

To overcome this challenge, the researchers are developing novel surface coatings that will have a long term effect, and contain nanoparticles of safe metal ions and polymers with anti-viral and anti-microbial activity. Certain metals can be lethal, even in small quantities, for viruses and bacteria and are not poisonous to humans. In proof of concept experiments, the researchers assessed the effect of surfaces coated with nanoparticles of various metals on the infectivity of lentiviruses, which belong to the HIV family, in human cells. Their findings show that surfaces coated with copper nanoparticles strongly block infection of the cells by the virus. These ongoing experiments show a huge potential for copper ions in preventing surface-mediated infection with SARS-CoV-2.

Based on these findings, the researchers are developing anti-viral coatings that can be painted or sprayed on surfaces. The coatings are based on polymers, which are the starting materials of plastics and paints, and contain nanoparticles of copper and other metals. The nanoparticles embedded in the polymer will enable controlled release of metal ions onto the coated surface. Studies show that these ions have a strong anti-viral effect, which can eradicate virus particles that adhere to the surface. Because the release of ions is extremely slow, the coating can be effective for a long period of time – weeks and even months, and it will reduce the infectivity of the virus particles by more than 10-fold.

“The current coronavirus is transmitted not only through droplet spray but also via various surfaces that can convey the virus from one person to another. Furthermore, research shows that the virus remains viable on various surfaces for extended periods of time, of days and even longer. Therefore, there is a clear need for durable anti-viral coatings that can be sprayed or painted on surfaces, just like paint or varnish, and that will prevent viral transmission,” said Prof. Angel Porgador from the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics at Ben-Gurion University and the National Institute of Biotechnology in the Negev. “These surfaces can include handles, buttons, railways or any other public surface that poses increased danger, in particular in places with a high concentration of potential carriers, such as hospitals or clinics. It is important to remember that we are developing coatings that will be effective not only against the coronavirus but also against other viruses, as indicated in our proof of concept experiments, and also against bacteria, so they will be relevant for a wide range of applications.”

“While current surface disinfection methods rely mostly on substances that are poisonous for people, such as bleach, or on substances that evaporate readily being based on alcohol, the coating that we are developing is based on metals that are toxic for viruses or bacteria, but completely human friendly,” said Dr. Mark Schvartzman from the Department of Materials Engineering at Ben-Gurion University. “It should be noted that until now using such metals for anti-viral applications has encountered significant challenges due to the nature of the metals, such as the tendency to oxidize and corrode. Nanoparticles provide a solution to these obstacles. Another advantage of nanoparticles is the large surface area to volume ratio, which results in an efficient anti-viral surface area using a relatively small amount of metal. Additionally, nanoparticles of anti-viral metal can be easily embedded in a polymer that can coat the relevant surfaces for extended periods of time.”

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