RSC Adv. 2022 Jul 4;12(30):19327-19339. doi: 10.1039/d2ra02653h. eCollection 2022 Jun 29.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of research and development in maintaining public health. Facing unprecedented challenges, the scientific community developed antiviral drugs, virucides, and vaccines to combat the infection within the past two years. However, an ever-increasing list of highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 variants (gamma, delta, omicron, and now ba.2 stealth) has exacerbated the problem: again raising the issues of infection prevention strategies and the efficacy of personal protective equipment (PPE). Against this backdrop, we report an antimicrobial fabric for PPE applications. We have fabricated a nanofibrous silk-PEO material using electrospinning followed by zinc oxide thin film deposition by employing the atomic layer deposition technique. The composite fabric has shown 85% more antibacterial activity than the control fabric and was found to possess substantial superoxide dismutase-mimetic activity. The composite was further subjected to antiviral testing using two different respiratory tract viruses: coronavirus (OC43: enveloped) and rhinovirus (RV14: non-enveloped). We report a 95% reduction in infectious virus for both OC43 and RV14 from an initial load of ∼1 × 105 (sample size: 6 mm dia. disk), after 1 h of white light illumination. Furthermore, with 2 h of illumination, ∼99% reduction in viral infectivity was observed for RV14. High activity in a relatively small area of fabric (3.5 × 103 viral units per mm2) makes this antiviral fabric ideal for application in masks/PPE, with an enhanced ability to prevent antimicrobial infection overall.