We asked Paul Morris, MD of Addmaster, an expert in antimicrobials, about hygiene and creating COVID-SECURE environments.

How can a virus build up on a surface?
To date there is limited published research, but the Covid-19 coronavirus is thought to only survive on a surface for three days. The good news is that it does not grow on a surface like bacteria, it needs a host (you) to multiply. We need to remember too that viruses can transmit to a surface in many ways, from airborne particles through contact touch points.

How should we be cleaning surfaces to make our workplaces COVID-SECURE?
Covid-19 is an enveloped virus and relies on a protective lipid coating. The good news is that lipid coating are relatively vulnerable and easy to destroy. There are several methods available to destroy the lipid coating. Alcohol-based products disintegrate the protective lipids.

Quaternary ammonium disinfectants, commonly used in healthcare and food-service industries, attack protein and lipid structures, thwarting the pathogen’s typical mode of infection. Bleach and other potent oxidizers will also break down the essential components of a virus. These methods are highly effective at removing dangerous pathogens from surfaces, but they only remain effective for up to two hours maximum. After this, new microbes landing on the surface will continue to thrive.

What are durable antimicrobials and how can they help?
An antimicrobial is a substance that will reduce or destroy the presence of microbes such as bacteria, mould and viruses. The purpose of an antimicrobial is to provide 24-hour protection against most harmful microbes for the lifetime of the product. It doesn’t wear off or leach out.

We have been conducting an enormous amount of testing on coronavirus’, particularly the feline strain as it’s so similar to Covid-19 (to date commercial labs cannot handle Covid-19 so all testing is against feline coronavirus -scientific consensus is that it will be deactivated in the same way). These properties are all designed to last for the life of the product, rather than the temporary action of a disinfectant, therefore enhancing hygiene protocols. This doesn’t shortcut the need to clean, but it means the virus is unlikely to survive on the surfaces for as long and gives added reassurance and protection.

How can we use antimicrobials in the finishes and interiors sector?
Traditionally antimicrobials have been introduced as additives in the manufacturing stage, but the technology is advancing rapidly.

For example, solid surfaces were always thought of being a no-go area for antiviral properties but with formulation enhancements and the particular lipid coatings in the coronavirus family, this has changed. We are now seeing very positive results of over> 80% (for the most diffi cult polymers) in only two hours and over 95% in porous surfaces such as textiles and paper. Tests are continuing with other polymers and coatings and we are expecting to also see results in the range of 95% in two hours for the majority of applications. The application process is innovating too and as well as embedding within the material, antimicrobials can be applied as a paint or coating.

How are they helping with the fight against the COVID-19 virus?
Antimicrobials are already widely adopted for frequently touched surfaces (e.g. hand held devices and light switches) in clinical settings. They are also being used in the manufacture of PPE equipment and uniforms, but we have also seen them used in the NHS with impregnated bags helping to carry their potentially contaminated uniforms back from the hospital to wash at home. We can see a number of settings where antimicrobials can be used to coat screens and furniture in office.

We are now working with major airline suppliers to produce safer environments when flying in all types of aircraft seating, terminal seating, galleys and toilets and we have some interesting projects under way with companies in the finishes and interiors sector as we all learn more about how these products can support our fight against this and future viruses.

The full impact of COVID-19 is not clear yet, but it seems inconceivable that we will not be paying more attention to how surfaces can carry bacteria, germs and viruses and doing more to win the confidence of people that they are in a clean and safe place and build resilience to future risk of pandemic.