Cellulose coating neutralises COVID virus in minutes

Researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Cambridge have developed a cellulose-based film that can inactivate COVID within minutes, as well as restrict growth of bacteria such as E.Coli.

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Working alongside Cornwall’s FiberLean Technologies, a specialist in Microfibrillated Cellulose (MFC) applications, the team created a thin film of cellulose fibre invisible to the naked eye, but abrasion-resistant under dry conditions. This makes it suitable for objects such as door handles or handrails that endure a high load of traffic.

Taking a porous MFC developed by FiberLean for the paper and packaging industry, the researchers discovered the pores accelerated the evaporation rate of liquid droplets and introduced an imbalanced osmotic pressure across bacteria membrane. When testing the film for surface transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the team found a three-fold reduction of infectivity when droplets containing the virus were left on the coating for five minutes, with infectivity falling to zero after 10 minutes.

The antimicrobial tests were repeated with droplets containing the bacteria E.Coli and S.epidermidis, with the researchers finding ‘substantial reductions’ in infectivity at one hour and 24 hours. The work is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

“The risk of surface transmission, as opposed to aerosol transmission, comes from large droplets which remain infective if they land on hard surfaces, where they can be transferred by touch,” said Professor Zhenyu Jason Zhang, from Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering

This surface coating technology uses sustainable materials and could potentially be used in conjunction with other antimicrobial actives to deliver a long-lasting and slow-release antimicrobial effect.”

The researchers confirmed the stability of the coating by mechanical scraping tests, where the coating showed no noticeable damage when dry, but easy removal from the surface when wetted, making it convenient and suitable for daily cleaning and disinfection practice. University of Birmingham Enterprise has filed a joint patent application with FiberLean Technologies and Cambridge University covering a MFC which can inactivate viruses by disrupting the lipid envelop of the virion.