A team of researchers, including one of Indian origin, has developed a medical face mask membrane similar to N95, which can capture and deactivate the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein on contact.
SARS-CoV-2 is covered in spike proteins, which allow the virus to enter host cells once in the body. The team developed a membrane which includes proteolytic enzymes that attach to the protein spikes and deactivate them.
"This new material can filter out the virus like the N95 mask does, but also includes antiviral enzymes that completely deactivate it. This innovation is another layer of protection against SARS-CoV-2 that can help prevent the virus from spreading," said Professor Dibakar Bhattacharyya from the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky.
"It's promising to develop new products that can protect against SARS-CoV-2 and a number of other human pathogenic viruses," he added.
In the study published in the journal Communications Materials, the team developed the membrane, which was fabricated through an existing collaboration with a large-scale membrane manufacturer.
It was then tested using SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins that were immobilised on synthetic particles. Not only could the material filter out coronavirus-sized aerosols, but it was also able to destroy the spike proteins within 30 seconds of contact.
The study reports that the membrane provided a protection factor above the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's standard for N95 masks, meaning that it could filter at least 95 per cent of airborne particles.
"These membranes have been proven to be a promising system of advancement toward the new generation of respiratory face masks and enclosed-environment filters that can significantly reduce coronavirus transmission by virus protein deactivation and enhanced aerosol particle capture," the study said.