“Surgical masks were originally designed to protect the wearer from infectious droplets in clinical settings, but it doesn’t help much to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases such as SARS or MERS or influenza,” says Choi.
Airborne pathogens like influenza are transmitted in aerosol droplets when we cough or sneeze. The masks may well trap the virus-laden droplets but the virus is still infectious on the mask. Merely handling the mask opens up new avenues for infection. Even respirators designed to protect individuals from viral aerosols have the same shortcoming—viruses trapped in respirators still pose risks for infection and transmission.
Masks capable of killing viruses would save lives, especially in an epidemic or pandemic situation. During the 2014-2015 season nearly 8,000 Canadians were hospitalized with the flu. That same year, deaths related to influenza in Canada reached an all-time high of nearly 600.
Knowing that the masks are inexpensive and commonly used, Choi and his research team went about exploring ways to improve the mask’s filter. And this is where a problem he is struggling with in one field of research—the development of oral vaccines like a pill or a lozenge—became a solution in another area.
A major hurdle in the development of oral vaccines is that when liquid solutions dry, crystals form and destroy the virus used in vaccines, rendering the treatment useless. In a nifty bit of engineering judo, Choi flipped the problem on its head and turned crystallization into a bug buster, using it as a tool to kill active viruses.
Choi and his team developed a salt formulation and applied it to the filters, in the hope that salt crystals would “deactivate” the influenza virus.
The mechanics of simple chemistry make the treatment work. When an aerosol droplet carrying the influenza virus contacts the treated filter, the droplet absorbs salt on the filter. The virus is exposed to continually increasing concentrations of salt. As the droplet evaporates, the virus suffers fatal physical damage when the salt returns to its crystalized state.
While developing solid vaccines, Choi observed that sugar used for stabilizing the vaccine during the drying process crystalizes as it dries out. When crystals form, sharp edges and spikes take shape and they physically destroy the virus vaccine.
“We realized that we could use that to our advantage to improve surgical masks,” said Choi.
In a series of experiments and tests at the University of Alberta and in the Department of Medical Zoology at the Kyung Hee University School of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, the team arrived at a perfect treatment that improves the efficacy of the fibre filter inside the masks.
By using a safe substance (table salt) to improve an existing, approved product, Choi sees very few roadblocks to implementing the innovation.
Learn more: Researcher turns “SARS mask” into a virus killer
Receive an email update when we add a new VIRUSES article.
The Latest on: Killing viruses
via Google News
The Latest on: Killing viruses
- Minnesota depending on grouse hunters for research on West Nile viruson September 7, 2019 at 4:32 pm
Carstensen said researchers want hunters to gather drops of blood within 20 minutes of a kill, and later save the heart. West Nile virus has been present in Minnesota since the early 2000s, and cases ...
- Larvicide dropped over swampy areas to kill mosquitoeson September 6, 2019 at 6:08 pm
There’s been one case of West Nile virus detected in Tiverton. The larvicide targets immature mosquitoes. The state also plans to spray fine aerosol droplets that kill flying mosquitoes on contact, ...
- 5 more horses in N.J. die after contracting severe mosquito-borne viruson September 6, 2019 at 4:17 am
The virus — which is known to affect both horses and camelids like alpacas — can cause inflammation of the brain tissue and has a greater chance of killing horses than West Nile virus, officials said.
- Mosquitoes With West Nile Virus Found In Manchesteron September 5, 2019 at 7:34 pm
From this point in the season until there is a statewide mosquito-killing frost, the risk of infection by mosquito-borne viruses will increase." Chan recommends that residents use effective bug ...
- ‘Raging river’ kills 113 dogs and cats at Bahamas shelter. Survivors coming to Florida.on September 5, 2019 at 2:49 pm
2, 2019, killing 113 dogs and cats at the shelter and forcing staffers ... parvovirus and parainfluenza virus. These animals can’t come to the U.S. without a health certificate and rabies vaccination ...
- West Nile Virus toll can be extreme for some Atlanta residentson September 4, 2019 at 3:12 am
it can also kill, and does every year in the United States. But researchers still are unsure why it can affect people so differently. The boards of health in DeKalb and Fulton regularly trap ...
- Mosquitoes carrying virus that can cause brain inflammation and even death found in New Jerseyon September 1, 2019 at 10:34 am
Basically, these mosquitoes could potentially kill you. EEE is a virus that causes brain inflammation and, though rare, can be fatal. Just earlier this month, a Massachusetts woman died after ...
- How Ebola went from killing 11,000 people in one year to being on the verge of a cureon August 31, 2019 at 9:57 am
Here's how Ebola began, where it's spread, and how it went from killing tens of thousands to being on the verge of a cure. The Ebola virus, which under a microscope resembles spaghetti, is thought to ...
- Ebola kills 9-year-old girl as outbreak records 3,000 caseson August 31, 2019 at 3:20 am
While the vast majority of infections remain in DRC's North Kivu Province, in recent weeks the virus has spread to neighboring South Kivu Province and the transit hub of Goma along the border with ...
via Bing News