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New Antiviral Textile Finish Could Reduce the Spread of Disease

Scientists have recently developed the first textile finish to use both antiviral and antibacterial functions, which could spell the end of the road for pathogens. The new technology could be incorporated into textiles used for places like hospitals, nurseries and child care centers to interrupt chains of infection.

A team of researchers from the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim, Germany worked on the finishing effect as part of a German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF) research project. Prof. Höfer, head of the hygiene, environment and medicine department said, “Over the long term, we are interested in finding out whether the risk of infection, that is to say the spread of germs from person to person, can be reduced by using biofunctional textiles in the future.”

Just as hands can collect and spread infection-inducing germs, so can textiles. According to Hohenstein, textiles that come in regular contact with hands have been proven to contribute to spreading viruses. Researchers at the Institute conducted an experiment that proved clothing and hospital textiles like bed linens and towels could potentially transmit a virus, if contaminated by bacteria on the hands or in the air.

One way scientists achieved the desired finish was to use copper pigments in a process similar to dyeing with dispersion dyes. Dispersed copper pigments were incorporated into the fibers and then bound with a polymer agent in a cold padding process to protect the copper from mechanical abrasion. All samples passed lab tests for skin-friendliness but in some cases, the copper finish gave the fabric a slight green hue.

To test the effectiveness of the finish, researchers used cleansing cloths made with the antiviral and antibacterial properties to wipe glass, stainless steel and wood surfaces that were contaminated with polio, hepatitis A and other clinically relevant viruses. The cloths absorbed 91 percent of the applied viruses and virus concentration in the cloth was reduced by roughly 90 percent.

The research revealed that antiviral cleaning cloths provide an efficient hygienic effect and can help to reduce the rate of germ transfer in nurseries and child care centers where the transmission of infection is especially high. However, Hohenstein noted, the new functional finish could also be useful in the domestic environment to reduce infection spreading in senior care homes, communal facilities and in protective clothing for firemen, emergency service workers and military personnel.