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Currently, the reusable face masks used by the general public don’t protect wearers from COVID-19, but instead serve as filters that keep the coronavirus from wafting out should they be asymptomatic. That might soon change, as scientists are now developing protection equipment that actually kills the virus.
Researchers at the University of Kentucky are building a powerful yet comfortable external face mask layer fortified with a membrane of enzymes that can trap and kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus upon contact.
As you might know, the coronavirus is so-called due to its crownlike, or coronal, protein spikes. Taking its appearance into account, the researchers are using the enzymes to attach to the spikes and split them apart, therefore killing the coronavirus.
“The protein spikes are also what allows the virus to enter host cells once in the body,” Dibakar Bhattacharyya, chemical engineering professor and director of the the University of Kentucky’s Center of Membrane Sciences, described in a statement to Newsweek. “This new membrane will include proteolytic enzymes that will attach to the protein spikes of the coronavirus and separate them, killing the virus.”
Furthermore, the antiviral mask will be able to destroy viral particles in the air, ultimately “[slowing] and even [preventing] the virus from spreading.” It will be able to fight not only the COVID-19, but also “a number of human pathogenic viruses.”
While the technology used on the protective garment might make it sound bulky and uncomfortable, you can be assured that it will be highly breathable, as the membrane applied to the mask is very thin. On top of that, it will possibly change colors when coming into contact with the virus.
It’s unclear how much a mask like this will cost, though you’ll probably find out in about six months when it’s expected to be ready. The center was backed with US$150,000 to create the garment.
[via BGR, video via University of Kentucky, cover image via Shutterstock]