As we all now know, coronavirus is transmitted mainly through hands, surfaces, coughs and sneezes, and close personal contact. So, for most people, good personal hygiene and social distancing should be enough to prevent or reduce the chance of catching or passing on COVID-19.
But what about the 1.4m people in the UK who are extremely vulnerable? People who have weakened immune systems, severe respiratory conditions and women who are pregnant with significant heart disease. For these, catching COVID-19 should be seen as a ‘never event’ – the difference between life and death.
For the extremely vulnerable, personal hygiene and social distancing won’t be enough. And social distancing won’t even be possible in some settings like hospitals and care homes. So those people will have to go beyond the basics and avoid not just most of the transmission routes but all of them.
Within this context, we need to look again at airborne transmission. It is true that the public needs simple messages, and sneezes and coughs were the right place to have started. The scientific evidence initially suggested that coronavirus particles did not stay around in the air for long. But more recent research is pointing to a more complicated – and worrying – picture.
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that COVID-19 was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours: ‘Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is plausible since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours.’
Such virus-rich aerosols can be created and left suspended in the air where an infected person has coughed or sneezed. They can also be produced through an infected person’s use of toilets. Coronavirus aerosols were found inside patients’ mobile toilets in Wuchang Fangcang Field Hospital which was attributed to ‘aerosolization of the virus-laden aerosol from patient’s faeces or urine during use’.
With this new evidence, it is becoming clear that air itself needs to be rid of the virus. Ironically, many building ventilation systems spread microbes rather than controlling them. One way to control the air we breathe is to wear masks, but no one wants to wear masks for 24 hours a day – as even during sleep you could potentially be exposed.
That’s why we have been working to create an effective antiviral air filtration unit. Similar to the personal domestic air purifiers that are springing up over Amazon, ours is a unit that can be plugged in and left running to progressively clean the air around you. But unlike these more basic units, ours is also designed specifically to remove coronavirus and other viruses and bacteria.
Our technology uses two distinct mechanisms. Firstly, pollution particles, bacteria and – most importantly – viruses are attracted to the inner surfaces of microscopic pores where they are then trapped. And, secondly, bacteria and viruses are destroyed by a chemical reaction with a novel antibacterial and antiviral surface treatment. This reaction causes these pathogens to burst like balloons touching a cactus. Through these two mechanisms, any viruses will be destroyed. When placed inside a room, the unit will filter and recirculate the air in it multiple times, significantly reducing the overall airborne viral load drops. Though small, our unit has the capacity to pass 25 m3/h of air (equivalent to recirculating the entire volume of a 25sqm room over 50x per day), with effectiveness to not only remove but more importantly DESTROY at least 99.999% of viruses. With this filtration unit we are hopeful that the infectivity of residual aerosols can be reduced.
We’re finalising stringent testing first and will be announcing details soon. In the meantime, for press enquiries or to pre-register your interest in our technology, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.