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Ground-breaking plastic reduces virus transmissions

September 14, 2022

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a ground-breaking plastic that could be key in reducing the spread of bugs in hospitals and care homes.

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a ground-breaking plastic that could be key in reducing viruses in hospitals. plastic reduces virus transmissions

The team say the cheap film releases chemicals that react with room lights to kill viruses in their millions and even eradicate tougher species that linger on clothes and surfaces.

It is claimed that the plastic could be fashioned into protective clothing items such as disposable aprons, tablecloths, and curtains for use in healthcare settings.

The technology used to create the film also ensures it is degradable, unlike the current disposable plastic films it would replace.

The research was accelerated as part of the UK’s response to the Covid pandemic.

Studies had shown that, while Covid virus is able to survive for up to 72 hours on some surfaces, it pales in comparison to other ‘sturdier’ species. Norovirus – known as the winter vomiting bug – can survive outside the body for two weeks while waiting for somebody new to infect.

The team of chemists and virologists investigated self-sterilising materials that reduce the risk of contaminated surfaces spreading infections.

The Queen’s researchers tested the film for anti-viral activity using four different viruses – two strains of influenza A virus, a highly-stable picornavirus called EMCV, and SARS2 – exposing it to either UVA radiation or light from a cool white light fluorescent lamp.

In controlled laboratory conditions, about one million virus particles were placed on the self-sterilising plastic. While this is far beyond the amount of virus that would be needed to start an infection, the film was found to be effective in killing all of them – even in conditions in a room lit with just white fluorescent tubes.

With the initial research now completed, real-world trials will hopefully confirm the benefits and efficacy of self-sterilising plastic.

The full study has been published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology.

Related: Viruses surviving on microplastics

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