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Antiviral spray that costs just £7 and protects surfaces from COVID-19

by Gail Partin (2020-10-11)


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A new disinfectant spray can protect surfaces from coronavirus for up to 90 days by making it 'inactive' will be on sale in Hong Kong from just £7 next month.

Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology say the 'smart spray' works on a range of surface types including metal, plastic and fabric.

The disinfectant, called MAP-1, lasts 'significantly longer' than traditional sprays that use bleach or alcohol, according to the Hong Kong team.

MAP-1 has technology that allows it to release chemicals when someone touches a surface that has been sprayed - rather than have them always available.

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Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology say the 'smart spray' works on a range of surface types including metal, plastic and fabric.

It was used to spray the inside of thousands of homes in poorer Hong Kong neighbourhoods

Tiny nano-fibres were sprayed with the chemical and then used to create surgical masks that were more resistant to COVID-19

The disinfectant, which has been tested in shopping malls, schools, churches and sports halls has been approved for domestic use in Hong Kong. 

SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, can survive on surfaces for anything from hours to a week, researchers say.

Studies show that the virus can survive on paper for three hours but will live on surgical face masks for up to seven days.

The Hong Kong team say their disinfectant coating can be used to coat nanofibers that are then woven to form surgical masts - providing frontline workers with more protection from COVID-19. 

Coronavirus can live on different surfaces for a different amounts of time - it lasts 7 days on a surgical mask but just 3 hours on paper.

The new MAP-1 disinfectant works on a range of materials according to its developers. The data is from the New England Journal of Medicine

It took more than a decade to develop the spray and can also be used on surfaces regularly touched by the public including handrails and buttons. 

'These places are frequently touched, and, at the same time, serve as a very effective medium for transmission of diseases,' chief researcher Professor Joseph Kwan.

The coating that forms after spraying has millions of nano-capsules containing disinfectants, which Kwan says remain effective in killing bacteria, viruses and spores even after the coating has dried.

Unlike diluted bleach and alcohol, MAP-1 is further boosted by heat-sensitive polymers which release disinfectants when touched.

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It is non-toxic and safe for skin and the environment, the researchers say.

This means it can be used in hand sanitisers, paints and coating materials, filter materials for air and water purification, as well as clothing and surgical masks to safeguard the health of the individual and public. 

It was tested on water pipes used in sewage works - they found the pipes coated with MAP-1 were more resistant to corrosion and microbial contamination.

Following clinical tests this year at a Hong Kong hospital and a home for the elderly, the coating has been made available for commercial purchase by Germagic, a unit of the university's industrial partner, Chiaphua Industries.

With help from a local charity, the non-toxic coating has already been sprayed around the homes of more than a thousand low-income families in the city.

'I feel like it has strengthened our protection against the virus,' said Law Ha-yu, a mother of two who lives in a 110-square-foot subdivided unit that was recently sprayed with the coating.

The coating has been tested on water pipes in a sewage plant and researchers found that those coated with MAP-1 (left) were more resistant to corrosion and contamination than those not given the coating (right)

The researchers said shopping malls, schools and sport training facilities in the city have adopted the coating.

Applying the coating at schools costs £2,000 ($2,600) to £5,180 ($6,451), depending on the size of the sprayed area. 

The company also plans to introduce 50ml and 200ml domestic use versions with prices ranging from £7.26 to £25. 

MAP-1 is designed for use on different surfaces including metals, concrete, wood, glass, plastics as well as fabrics, leathers and textiles without changing the materials' appearance and tactile feel, the developers claim.

Using a special blend of antimicrobial polymers, the new coating effectively kills up to 99.99 per cent of bacteria and viruses through contact killing and anti-adhesion technology.

It works on Rubella, avian influenza, H1N1 and FCV - a non-enveloped virus which is among the hardest to kill. 

According to US Environmental Protection Agency guideline in 2016, being effective against FCV is equivalent to being able to inactivate the coronavirus.