New disinfection systems to provide protection against infection in hospitals and public settings
This project aims to develop a disinfecting technique that will allow us to safely reuse surgical masks and develop antiviral coatings for surfaces that will help minimise the spread of infection.
A major challenge in the battle against the spread of COVID-19 has been the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning products for healthcare providers and essential services workers. Many countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas are retooling their factories to increase their production capacity.
This shortage of PPE has led to shockingly high infection rates among healthcare workers, making up to 13 per cent of all confirmed cases in Spain.
It has also led to desperate health workers reusing disposable, single-use masks or resorting to home-made cloth masks. While masks can reduce viral spread, the only trial of cloth masks was done at UNSW and showed higher rates of infection in cloth mask compared to surgical masks wearers. This has become an issue of international concern, with questions about the safety of cloth masks. Also, there is limited information on how best to disinfect masks if they are reused.
Adding to this, current cleaning regimes to decontaminate common contact points (e.g. door handles, buttons, and shopping trolleys) in public settings is compromised by the lack of protection against the virus between cleans. While the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 virus is unknown, a 2020 review on coronaviruses shows that it may be able to survive for hours and even days on different materials. These touch points remain a viable route of disease transmission, especially in highly trafficked areas, despite improved awareness about hand washing.
This project will tackle these two urgent issues in stopping the spread of COVID19 by:
- Enabling the reuse of contaminated PPE (such as masks) using a scalable and portable benchtop disinfection technology
- Using bioactive and readily available ingredients to supplement or enhance existing disinfectants to offer sustained protection.