Masks and gowns are crucial to protect health workers from the spread of viruses, but they only do so much. Germs can still latch onto the material that protective equipment is made of, and diseases can spread when people touch the masks or touch their gowns.
What if, like water sliding off a raincoat, viruses could be repelled by the textiles used for PPE, clothing and even the seats in a hospital waiting room?
University of Pittsburgh researchers have created a washable textile coating that repels liquids, such as blood and saliva, and also prevents viruses from adhering to its surface. Their work, which was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, began before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the researchers see it as being especially relevant now.
Not only could this coating potentially improve how protective PPE is, says Paul Leu, coauthor of the research and head of the school’s Laboratory for Advanced Materials—it could also help address critical PPE shortages, such as what hospitals across the world are currently facing. “One of the main reasons [for shortages] is because a lot of medical textiles are disposable. They’re single-use—you use it once, then throw it away.”
That’s also a huge benefit to the environment as less single-use PPE means less waste. Considering the revolutionary potential this could have for PPE, we’ll certainly be watching the development of this washable textile from the University of Pittsburgh.