Development of improved PPE with antimicrobial capacities

Carolina Acosta and Lodovico Agostinis, chemical technology group researchers, explain AIMPLAS' project to develop improved PPE using antimicrobial materials.

× The recent outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has shown that human and economic costs can be colossal in a pandemic if measures are not implemented to contain the spread of infection. The risk of spreading airborne infections caused by harmful pathogens (including bacteria and virus) is a constant problem. At the same time, the struggle continues against the complications associated with priority pathogens that are highly resistant to conventional drugs. 

Thus, in addition to containment measures, passive measures can minimise the impact of outbreaks of infection, and measures to minimise spread can do the same by reducing vectors of transmission. Given this demand, the design and production of materials with intrinsic antibacterial and virucidal qualities is currently a major research priority.  

Antimicrobial technologies include the use of additives to create products that are permanently protected against microorganisms. Common additives include inorganic options such as silver and copper ions, which can be used in paint, coatings and textiles. Also available are zinc antimicrobial additives, known for their antibacterial and antifungal action. Widely used organic additives include phenolic biocides, quaternary ammonium compounds (quats or QACs) and fungicides (thiabendazole). In the case of fungicides, it is important to identify the mechanisms by which the compounds inhibit growth (bacteriostatic) or cause bacterial death (bactericidal), as well as the affected targets.  

However, metal-based materials can corrode in different environments and leaching can lead to the release of active ions, which has generated debate on the possibility of local cell toxicity. Research has therefore turned to alternate methods to take advantage of the properties of these metals in other morphologies and types of materials. Botanical extracts were recently proposed as agents with antibacterial action and potential virucidal effect. Bio-based compounds present a lower risk in terms of the development of adverse effects, allergies and toxicity for end users and the environment. Among natural extracts, phenolic compounds are associated with high antimicrobial and antiviral activity.  

Measures to reduce transmission must bear in mind that the three main means of airborne transmission routes are saliva droplets and suspended small particles or aerosol droplet nuclei and dust. In addition to the implementation of comprehensive hygiene protocols, PPE has been used worldwide to minimise the transmission of infection.  

Using a combination of antimicrobial protection options could significantly reduce pathogen transmission and contamination. The approach involves inactivation of the pathogen when it comes into contact with internal or external layers of protection so that it can no longer cause infection.  

The DOTMASK Project

To respond to this challenge, AIMPLAS is participating in the project “Study for the development of improved PPE with antimicrobial capacities - DOTMASK”. The project is funded by the Valencian Agency of Innovation (AVI) with the participation of La Fe Hospital Health Research Institute and the companies Lamberti, ADM Biopolis and Airnatech.  

The project’s chief aim is to develop antimicrobial materials (bactericidal, virucidal and fungicidal), based on natural and nanotechnological solutions, to be included in textiles and plastic to develop improved PPE with antimicrobial properties. 

This project is framed within the global context of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, as well as the current and anticipated increase in hospital-acquired infections. Both situations highlight the need for mass use of PPE by the general public and especially health and emergency services personnel in the event of a pandemic.  

To achieve this goal, new antimicrobial coatings that can be applied to textiles and flat sheets will be developed, as well as inherently antimicrobial polymers to produce face shields. The project will also include toxicity and ergonomic studies in a real environment. Project results will involve the development of antiviral and antimicrobial masks and face shields.  

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Fecha publicación: 27/06/2022

Fuente: Medical Plastics News

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