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New Method Allow Surgical Masks To Kill Viruses

New Method Allow Surgical Masks To Kill Viruses

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  • Flu is caused by the influenza virus that infects the nose, throat and the lungs.
  • New way of trapping airborne viruses using surgical masks was developed by a recent study from the University of Alberta.
  • Salt formulation absorbed in the mask filter may help to deactivate the virus.

A new way that is capable of trapping and killing the airborne viruses in common surgical masks, was developed by a research team from the University of Alberta.

The research findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Many people wear a simple surgical-style mask that wasn't designed to prevent the virus from influenza or other potentially deadly viruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Hyo-Jick Choi, a professor at the University of Alberta Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, said, "Surgical masks were originally designed to protect the wearer from infectious droplets in clinical settings, but it doesn't help much to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases such as SARS or MERS or influenza."

Influenza is an airborne pathogen that is transmitted in aerosol droplets when a person coughs or sneeze. These masks may well trap the virus-laden droplets that are infectious. Handling the mask may open new ways to transmit the infection. Using respirators to protect individuals from viral aerosols may pose a risk for infection and transmission.

Around 8000 Canadians were hospitalized and 600 were found to die due to flu during the year 2014-2015.

Masks are inexpensive and could be capable of killing the viruses to save lives. The research team explored new ways to improve the mask's filter.

It is difficult to develop an oral vaccine when the liquid solutions are dry as the crystals are formed that destroys the virus that is used in the vaccines making the treatment useless.

Crystallization is a process that is used as a tool to kill active viruses. The research team developed a salt formulation which was applied as a filter so that the viruses can be deactivated.

Mechanism of Action
When the infectious droplet containing the virus comes into contact with the filter, it may absorb the salt into the filter. The virus may be exposed to an increased concentrations of the salt.And when the droplet evaporates, the virus may suffer physical damage.

In the case of developing solid vaccines, the sugar that is used for stabilizing the vaccine during the drying process may crystallize when it dries. And when the crystals are formed, sharp edges and spikes may destroy the virus.

Choi, said, "We realized that we could use that to our advantage to improve surgical masks."

The researchers were able to provide proper treatment that would improve the efficacy of the filter inside the masks. Choi was also awarded a patent for developing virus deactivation systems based on salt-crystallization mechanisms.

Influenza (Flu)
Flu is usually caused by the influenza viruses. These viruses may infect the nose, throat and the lungs.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 4605 people were found to die in the United States due to influenza in the year 2014.

Flu virus spreads when a person sneezes, coughs or talks. The airborne droplets from the infected person may spread to the nearby people.

Flu complications may lead to pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsen chronic medical conditions.

References :
  1. Hyo-Jick Choi et.al Universal and reusable virus deactivation system for respiratory protection, Scientific Reports; (2017) DOI 10.1038/srep39956
  2. Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) - (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm)
  3. Influenza - (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/flu.htm)

Source: Medindia

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