Bioeng Transl Med. 2022 Sep 29:e10411. doi: 10.1002/btm2.10411. Online ahead of print.
In COVID-19, fomite transmission has been shown to be a major route for the spreading of the SARS-CoV-2 virus due to its ability to remain on surfaces for extended durations. Although glove wearing can mitigate the risk of viral transmission especially on high touch points, it is not prevalent due to concerns on diversion of frontline medical resources, cross-contamination, social stigma, as well as discomfort and skin reactions derived from prolonged wearing. In this study, we developed FlexiPalm, a hand-targeted auxiliary personal protective equipment (PPE) against fomite transmission of viruses. FlexiPalm is a unique palmar-side hand protector designed to be skin-conforming and transparent, fabricated from medical-grade polyurethane transparent film material as a base substrate. It serves primarily as a barrier to microbial contamination like conventional gloves, but with augmented comfort and inconspicuousness to encourage a higher public adoption rate. Compared to conventional glove materials, FlexiPalm demonstrated enhanced mechanical durability and breathability, comparable hydrophobicity, and displayed a minimal adsorption of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and virus-like particles (VLP). Importantly, FlexiPalm was found to bind significantly less viral protein and VLP than artificial human skin, confirming its ability to reduce viral contamination. A pilot study involving participants completing activities of daily living showed a high level of comfort and task completion, illustrating the usability and functionality of FlexiPalm. Moreover, we have demonstrated that surface modification of FlexiPalm with microtextures enables further reduction in viral adsorption, thereby enhancing its functionality. An effective implementation of FlexiPalm will bolster PPE sustainability and lead to a paradigm shift in the global management of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in general.