Editorial Feature

Antiviral Nanostructured Surfaces for the Inactivation of SARS-CoV-2

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The Centre for Biomedical Technologies at Queensland University of Technology (CBT-QUT) has successfully demonstrated the inactivity of SARS-CoV-2 within six hours on durable antiviral nanostructured surfaces.

At the time of this writing, more than 35 Million Active Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) cases have been registered worldwide. One of the ways this virus is spread around is by touching a contaminated surface, then directly touching the mouth, nose, or eyes without washing hands. This finding has prioritized the need for effective treatment, as a vaccine as well as SARS-CoV-2 resistant disinfectant for the surface. 

SARS-CoV-2 on Surfaces

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is believed to remain active on surfaces for several days. However, the lifespan depends on the material of the surface (Nazario, 2020) as well as the temperature and humidity.

In an experiment, Wang et al. measured Reproduction (R) numbers through the collected SARS-CoV-2 data from China and the U.S to investigate the influence of temperature and humidity. Upon increasing the temperature by 30 degrees Celsius and relative humidity by 25% from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere, the team expected a decline in the R number to about 0.89 (0.69 by temperature and 0.20 by humidity).

According to Bendex, it requires a two-step procedure to remove SARS-CoV-2 from the surface altogether:

  1. Scrub the area with soap and water to remove the biofilms that resist disinfectant
  2. Disinfect with chemicals

The approximate lifespan of SARS-CoV-2 on different surfaces are shown in the following table (The Economist, 2020), (Ren, et al., 2020):

Surface material

Survival duration

Metal

5 days

Wood

4 days

Plastics

2-3 days

Stainless steel

>5 days

Cardboard

24 hours

Copper

4 hours

Aluminium

2-8 hours

Glass

4-5 days

Ceramic

5 days


Fight Against SARS-CoV-2 Using Nanotechnology

The continuous rise of SARS-CoV-2 has urged scientists to explore potential treatments and clinical trials for effective antimicrobial therapies.

In the race of experimenting with different nanomaterials, Grolltex and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute collaborated to establish the graphene sensor chip on plastic that only requires a small biological sample from the patient to detect the presence of the virus (Graphene Council, 2020). Since the start of the pandemic, the nanotechnology field has quoted the virus to be naturally occurring nanoparticles, which requires virus-like nanoparticles that can maneuver the properties and mimic the behavior of viruses (Nanotechnology versus coronavirus, 2020).

With an estimated diameter of around 125 nm, the virus could be easily detected, while its gene could be altered and neutralized by biocompatible nanoparticles through targeted drug delivery.

Another prospect of using "nanosponges" to fight against SARS-CoV-2 has recently been demonstrated by The University of California, San Diego, in co-operation with Boston University (Zhang, et al., 2020).

Read more: Nanotechnology in Washable and Reusable Face Masks

Surface Inactivity of SARS-CoV-2

Kampf, Todt, Pfaender, & Steinmann stated that the SARS-CoV-2 infected surfaces can be disinfected by the combined chemicals of 62–71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within a minute.

The novel technology demonstrated by CBT-QUT (Hasan, et al., 2020) is both effective at inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 and effectively preventing the spread of the virus.

The team evaluated the antiviral performance against SARS-CoV-2 of nanostructured Al 6063 alloy surface generated through wet-etching and compared them with smooth aluminum surfaces and the tissue culture polystyrene plates. Their results demonstrated the elimination of viruses on a nanostructure within six hours, whereas other smooth surfaces contained the SARS-CoV-2 virus for up to 48 hours. According to Mr. Jafar Hasan, the first author of the paper, the nanostructures surfaces can be used on many hospital surfaces, such as trolleys, bed-rails, and door-knobs.

Future of Nanostructured Surfaces for the Inactivation of SARS-CoV-2

CBT-QUT’s discovery has proved the innovative method of using nanostructured surfaces in preventing SARS-CoV-2. Next, the CBT-QUT team has ambitiously planned to understand the antiviral mechanism and extend the technology to the industrial level. To massively control the environmental transmission that will help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the fabrication of different nanostructures other than Al 6063 alloy will also add immense development to the concept. 

References and Further Reading

Bendix, A. (2020). Decontaminating a surface with the coronavirus is a 2-step process. A biohazard cleaner says people are skipping the first step. [Online] Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-how-to-clean-disinfect-your-home-2020-4?r=DE&IR=T (Accessed on 05 October, 2020)

Chhantyal, P. (2020). How Polymer Nanoparticles Could Slow the Spread of COVID-19. [Online] AZoNano: https://www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=5537 (Accessed on 05 October, 2020)

Graphene Council. (2020). Grolltex Joins Fight Against Pandemic. [Online] The Graphene Council: https://www.thegraphenecouncil.org/blogpost/1501180/346027/Grolltex-Joins-Fight-Against-Pandemic (Accessed on 05 October, 2020)

Hasan, J., Pyke, A., Nair, N., Yarlagadda, T., Will, G., Spann, K., & Yarlagadda, P. K. (2020). Antiviral Nanostructured Surfaces Reduce the Viability of SARS-CoV-2. ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering. doi:10.1021/acsbiomaterials.0c01091

Kampf, G., Todt, D., Pfaender, S., & Steinmann, E. (2020). Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. Journal of Hospital Infection, 104(3), 246-251. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2020.01.022

Nanotechnology versus coronavirus. (2020). Nature Nanotechnology, 15. doi:10.1038/s41565-020-0757-7

Nazario, B. (2020). How Long Does the Coronavirus Live on Surfaces? [Online] WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/lung/how-long-covid-19-lives-on-surfaces (Accessed on 05 October, 2020)

Ren, S.-Y., Wang, W.-B., Hao, Y.-G., Zhang, H.-R., Wang, Z.-C., Chen, Y.-L., & Gao, R.-D. (2020). Stability and infectivity of coronaviruses in inanimate environments. World Journal of Clinical Cases , 8(8). doi:10.12998/wjcc.v8.i8.1391

The Economist. (2020). How long can the novel coronavirus survive on surfaces and in the air? [Online] The Economist: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/03/19/how-long-can-the-novel-coronavirus-survive-on-surfaces-and-in-the-air (Accessed on 05 October, 2020)

Wang, J., Tang, K., Feng, K., Lin, X., Lv, W., Kun, C., & Wang, F. (2020). High Temperature and High Humidity Reduce the Transmission of COVID-19. Available at SSRN 3551767. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3551767

Zhang, Q., Honko, A., Zhou, J., Gong, H., Downs, S. N., Vasquez, H. J., Fang, H. R., Gao, W., Griffiths, A., & Zhang, L. (2020). Cellular Nanosponges Inhibit SARS-CoV-2 Infectivity. Nano Letters, 20(7), 5570-5574. doi:10.1021/acs.nanolett.0c02278

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Parva Chhantyal

Written by

Parva Chhantyal

After graduating from The University of Manchester with a Master's degree in Chemical Engineering with Energy and Environment in 2013, Parva carried out a PhD in Nanotechnology at the Leibniz University Hannover in Germany. Her work experience and PhD specialized in understanding the optical properties of Nano-materials. Since completing her PhD in 2017, she is working at Steinbeis R-Tech as a Project Manager.

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