Scientists Are Working on Face Masks That Kill Coronavirus On Contact
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, new information and scientific progress is published at a constant pace. Experts are learning new things about the disease itself and how we can prevent its spread every single day, so it requires diligence from the public to do their part and act accordingly.
A few months ago, the concept of everyone in the U.S. wearing masks in public seemed farfetched. Now it’s just a fact of life that when you go buy some groceries or pick up dinner, you bring your mask. And, as we laid out before, not all masks are the same when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19. An even more recent development was that the California Bay Area made it mandatory for all residents to wear masks in public, but not masks with a vent, as it defeats the purpose nearly entirely.
Another new bit of information? Scientists are working on creating a treatment for face masks that not only prevent pathogens from spreading, but actually kills the virus on contact.
According to Newsweek, researchers at the University of Kentucky have been working on a mask that would “capture and deactivate” the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
UK chemical engineering professor Dibakar Bhattacharyya secured a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to create the masks, and said that he hopes the team could produce and test the membrane mask in six months.
"The novel coronavirus is covered in club-shaped 's-protein' spikes, which give it its crownlike, or coronal, appearance," Bhattacharyya told Newsweek. "The protein spikes are also what allows the virus to enter host cells once in the body. This new membrane will include proteolytic enzymes that will attach to the protein spikes of the coronavirus and separate them, killing the virus."
Also, if the virus is captured and killed on the surface of the mask, it would bring down the number of virus particles in the air that could spread to others.
“We have the capability to create a membrane that would not only effectively filter out the novel coronavirus like the N95 mask does, but deactivate the virus completely,” Bhattacharyya said. “This innovation would further slow and even prevent the virus from spreading. It would also have future applications to protect against a number of human pathogenic viruses.”
He added that the membrane would be thin enough that it wouldn’t hinder the wearer’s breathing at all, and could even come with color-changing ability to show when it comes into contact with the virus.
If this comes to fruition, it would be an enormous leap forward for not only the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but also influence future developments for other viral outbreaks and public health concerns.