Masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential for protecting healthcare workers—however, the textiles and materials used in such items can absorb and carry viruses and bacteria, inadvertently spreading the disease the wearer sought to contain.
When the coronavirus spread amongst healthcare professionals and left PPE in short supply, finding a way to provide better protection while allowing for the safe reuse of these items became paramount.
Thankfully, researchers from the LAMP Lab at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering may have a solution. The lab has created a textile coating that can not only repel liquids like blood and saliva but can also prevent viruses from adhering to the surface. The work was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.
“Recently there’s been focus on blood-repellent surfaces, and we were interested in achieving this with mechanical durability,” said Anthony Galante, PhD student in industrial engineering at Pitt and lead author of the paper. “We want to push the boundary on what is possible with these types of surfaces, and especially given the current pandemic, we knew it’d be important to test against viruses.”
What makes the coating unique is its ability to withstand ultrasonic washing, scrubbing and scraping. With other similar coatings currently in use, washing or rubbing the surface of the textile will reduce or eliminate its repellent abilities. Galante put the new coating to the test, running it through tens of ultrasonic washes, applying thousands of rotations with a scrubbing pad (not unlike what might be used to scour pots and pans), and even scraping it with a sharp razor blade. After each test, the coating remained just as effective.
The coating may have broad applications in healthcare: everything from hospital gowns to waiting room chairs could benefit from the ability to repel viruses, particularly ones as easily spread as adenoviruses.
The next step for the researchers will be to test the effectiveness against betacoronaviruses, like the one that causes COVID-19.