Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body under Department of Science and Technology (DST), is supporting research by a team of scientists from IIT Kanpur for developing a protective coating that would greatly help in preventing contamination of medicated masks and medical wear also termed as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from COVID-19.
The team would be developing the coating using a combination of common polymers containing anti-microbial properties and repurposable anti-viral molecules and materials that would make it a cost-effective solution. Doctors and nurses, treating COVID-19 patients are susceptible to contamination due to their nature of work and will immensely benefit from this as it would add a layer of security for them while treating COVID-19 patients. Cost-effectiveness of the project would also help in mass-scale production.
The researchers from the Department of Chemistry, IIT Kanpur will be designing the virucidal coating using polymers which can resist attachment of bacteria and virus. Additional protection will be included in the polymer coating using molecules that can either destabilize and/or neutralise coronaviruses and other viruses like influenza. The combination of anti-microbial polymer coating and functionalised drugs is also expected to provide a synergistic antiviral effect.
“While the most used varieties of masks work by filtration and retention of pathogens and aerosols based on their size, immobilizing anti-microbial and anti-viral ingredients on the fabric can be useful in critical environments, and for extending the life, re-usability and safer handling and disposal of masks. The additional defence will be especially valuable if it can be added at a fraction of the cost of the mask”, said Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology.
The researchers in the team include MLN Rao, Professor, Department of Chemistry, IIT Kanpur; Dr Ashis K Patra, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, IIT Kanpur; and Dr Nagma Parveen, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, IIT Kanpur. The team aims to establish a basic prototype within three months and further, collaborate with potential industrial and/or start-up partners for its potential large-scale applications.
The team will apply the proposed combination of polymer and repurposed drugs for coating standard healthcare utilities such as PPE. This system is expected to greatly help as preventive measures against infection caused by coronaviruses and other flu viruses like influenza in healthcare settings where doctors and nurses are susceptible to contamination in treating infected patients. The cost-effectiveness of the design by using common polymers, repurposable anti-viral/virucidal drugs, and agents may also allow the cost-effective mass-scale production of the medicated masks for the larger utilization in hospitals and for general use.