New insights highlight importance of antiviral materials in infection control

© iStock/Kolomiiets Iryna

A new review has been developed to enhance understanding and inform decisions on the use of antiviral materials and coatings to support infection control.

The researchers, from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC), particularly focused on the role that material science can play in infection control. They reviewed a range of natural and synthetic surface materials and coatings with documented antiviral properties, including metals, polymers and biopolymers, graphene, and antimicrobial peptides, as well as studying the physico-chemical properties of surfaces which can influence virus attachment.

The findings also provide an overview of the current practices and applications of antiviral materials and coatings in consumer products, personal protective equipment (PPE), healthcare, and public settings.

The review has been published in Communications Materials.

Typically, there is no single solution to prevent the spread of viral infections, and different modes of transmissions adds to that difficulty. The solution often requires a multiple-barrier protection, and, next to high hygiene standards and vaccination programmes, a number of control measures including adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) or antiviral surfaces in public facilities.

The role of material science in infection control

The insights from the report indicate that material science can play a vital role in the development of conceptual and practical measures to slow infectious outbreaks and that both existing and innovative broad-spectrum antiviral strategies should be considered, which could contribute to the challenge and preparedness of future viral pandemics.

NPL is also already working with industry to support new UK-based manufacturing of face coverings for healthcare and the general public.

Informing new technologies

Ian Gilmore, Head of Science, NPL, stated: “Materials science and technology has an important role in reducing virus transmission. This comprehensive review summarises the latest advances in an accessible form, which is hoped will provide a useful resource for research and development scientists in their innovation of new technologies.”

Paulina Rakowska, Research Innovation Development Manager at NBIC, said: “Many materials would exert both antiviral and antimicrobial properties but, until the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of research concentrated, predominantly, on the antimicrobial properties of different surface materials and coatings, with the antiviral properties being studied less frequently. A substantial shift in focus can be seen over the past year, towards the understanding of antiviral mechanisms of materials.”







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