“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
- Coronavirus Kills Chinese Man in Philippines, First Death Outside Chinaon February 3, 2020 at 1:52 am
The Philippines on Sunday said that a 44-year-old Chinese man had died of the new coronavirus, the first fatality outside of China, prompting tighter travel restrictions for both Filipinos and ...
- Editorial: Bad info spreads as fast as viruson February 3, 2020 at 1:23 am
Bill Gates’ foundation predicted this outbreak (maybe even created it) and projects that it will kill 65 million people. You won’t be one of them if you ... all the fake news that whips up unfounded ...
- China opens virus hospital, steadies markets as toll growson February 3, 2020 at 12:32 am
Hong Kong has recorded 14 cases of the virus and has cut flights and train and bus connections ... knew a missile had downed a Ukrainian jetliner after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 people ...
- Nickel production at Indonesia's Morowali park unaffected by viruson February 2, 2020 at 11:09 pm
Indonesia’s largest nickel industrial park said on Monday that its Chinese workers are clear of the coronavirus epidemic and that production is as “per normal”. PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park, ...
- China hunts for travellers from virus epicentreon February 2, 2020 at 8:18 pm
Communities in China are offering cash rewards, knocking on doors and questioning people trying to enter their neighbourhoods -- but they're not looking for criminals. In Beijing, neighbourhoods h ...
- Shanghai tanks on virus fears to lead fresh Asia market retreaton February 2, 2020 at 7:17 pm
The steep losses led another sell-off across Asia following a painful week for global markets with the virus killing 361 people and infecting more than 17,000, and governments around the world banning ...
- China’s Israel envoy compares virus travel bans to Holocauston February 2, 2020 at 5:01 pm
He said he has instructed the country’s Health Ministry to develop a vaccine for the fast-spreading virus. “We are also updating the Palestinian Authority ... immediately knew a missile had downed a ...
- New Chinese city locked down as virus kills abroadon February 1, 2020 at 4:10 pm
China imposed a lockdown Sunday on a major city far from the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, as its death toll soared to 304 and the first fatality outside the country was reported in the ...
- Sugar-derived molecules kill viruses in groundbreaking new treatmenton January 29, 2020 at 6:29 pm
Viruses are surprisingly difficult to kill – most of the drugs and chemicals that do the job are also harmful to human health. But now, scientists have developed a new virucidal substance derived from ...
via Bing News