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Self-sterilising plastic kills viruses such as COVID-19

Published on 09/09/22 at 08:32am

Scientists from Queen’s University Belfast have developed a virus-killing plastic that could make it harder for bugs, such as COVID-19, to spread in hospitals and care homes.

The plastic film is cheap and can be fashioned into protective gear, such as aprons. It works by reacting with light to release chemicals that break the virus.

The material was tested in the laboratory against four types of virus – two influenzas, COVID-19, and a picornavirus. In controlled lab conditions, about one million virus particles were placed on the self-sterilising plastic.

The study showed it could kill viruses by the million, even in tough species which typically linger on clothes and other surfaces. Studies had previously illustrated that the COVID-19 virus was able to survive for up to 72 hours on some surfaces, but in comparison – Norovirus can survive outside the body for up to two weeks while waiting for a new host to infect.

"This is the first time that anything like this has been developed," said Prof Andrew Mills, from the university's chemistry department.

He added: "This film could replace many of the disposable plastic films used in the healthcare industry as it has the added value of being self-sterilising at no real extra cost."

"It goes from one million viruses down to nothing, and we can see an effect in less than one hour and maximum death in two hours," said Dr Connor Bamford, from the school of medicine at Queen's.

"But we are adding a super-amount of virus to really challenge the system, it is likely there is an effect in the first few minutes."

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

Lina Adams

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