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Are anti-microbial coating in masks a safeguard against COVID-19?

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Dr Nagesh Jain, Medical consultant, Keeo Life and Consultant Surgeon- Pentamed Hospital talks about the anti-microbial coating in masks

The face mask has become a vital part of our lives since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. However, still many people do not have the knowledge to choose the right kind of mask for themselves. The US Centers for Disease Control  & Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend N95/FFP2 mask (respirator) or equivalent for effective protection against SARS-CoV-2, given its capability to provide both leakage and filtering protection to the wearer against the deadly virus. The use of cloth made masks was banned in European countries in order to check the spread of COVID-19 virus and it proved a success during the second wave.

Since this pandemic, many companies have tried to go the extra mile for providing a safer and infection- free environment to the end users adding anti-microbial features in their products, which have proven their ability to contain the virus.

Keeo Life, an Indian health startup took an initiative and made plans to invest in organic natural components to make an anti-microbial coating against SARS-CoV-2 to be used in masks and respirators, which would provide better chances at containing and controlling the spread of virus. The whole idea centered around developing a coating that was 100% organic and made from the substances used in the day-to-day routine, that had proved their ability to fight various bacteria’s and viruses. After the research and development for over 9 months, the first anti-microbial coating using natural extracts was developed and was named ‘self-sanitising layer’ on the mask. This layer, as medically tested has been found to provide a shield against SARS-CoV-2 virus and is capable of killing 90% of the virus on its surface as certified at Level-3 Bio Security Lab, in UK. This breakthrough has been first of its kind, where the Self-Sanitizing layer introduced to the N95/FFP2 ensured better safety measures for all, where the product is adept in not only filtering the virus but also killing it.

The research in the field has highlighted that masks with inherent anti-microbial properties can help in real-time deactivation of micro-organisms enabling multiple use and reduce secondary infections. On the contrary, since cloth masks come in wide array of materials and designs, it’s hard to make generalizations about how effective they are. The EPA found that a three-layer knitted cotton mask blocked 26.5% of particles and a two-layer nylon mask with a filter insert and a metal nose bridge blocked 79% of virus only. It has been found if an organic anti-microbial coating is introduced to the N95/FFP2 it will ensure better safety measures for all, where the product is adept in not only filtering the virus but also killing it. These anti-microbial masks have a nanomaterial applied as coating on the masks, which enhances their ability of the wearer from even minute or accidental contamination from COVID-19 virus droplet when in contact with someone affected by it.

Children and senior citizens who have been vulnerable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it is specifically also recommended for them as it will also allow for high breathability ensuring the mask stays on for longer as the only way to protect yourself against this virus is by wearing your masks in public places, maintaining social distance and regularly washing or sanitizing your hands.

These anti-microbial masks help prevent airborne, droplet and aerosol transmission where the primary control mechanism lies in reducing exposure. Therefore, the multiple layers in a mask should not only be able to prevent these transmissions but also trap or kill the virus before it attacks the person despite wearing a masks. This will also help reduce the dependence on millions of masks which are generally thrown away after single use. The masks being developed in the country need a long term solution to fight the virus, it cannot be alone keeping the virus away from infecting people, the solutions now have to be in the way of armoring people to fight the virus. The shelf life of these masks or respirators with added coating will differ with storage capacity of temperature, humidity, time to name a few.

Lately, the anti-microbial layered N95/FFP2 respirator can provide the required protection from COVID-19 to all. Going a step forward, these masks can be self- sanitizing in their nature. Moving forward all countries will need advanced technologies to be incorporated in the masks to make them safe and reliable for use by all age groups in the face of the looming threat.

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