This One Disinfectant Can Keep Surfaces Coronavirus-Free for Weeks
Not your standard disinfectant, this technology can keep a surface free of COVID-19 for two weeks.
We're all doing a lot of disinfecting these days to keep our homes coronavirus-free. But when you think about it, as soon as you disinfect a surface, it can easily become recontaminated with a mere cough or sneeze. And now that some states are reopening and people are going out in public again, any high-touch surfaces out in the world present a slew of new concerns. The good news is, a new University of Arizona study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, points out that continuously active disinfectants in the form of antimicrobial surface coatings can help fight the coronavirus for weeks on end. These products work to actively kill bacteria and viruses, like COVID-19, long after they're applied.
"During the course of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, aerosols released during sneezing and coughing contain infectious viruses that will eventually settle onto various surfaces," the study's lead author Luisa Ikner, associate research professor at the University of Arizona's Department of Environmental Science, said in a statement. So, Ikner, Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor of environmental science at the university, and their team worked to test active antimicrobial technology and its potential use against the transmission of viruses like COVID-19.
The researchers tested the antimicrobial coating against another human coronavirus, 229E, which is one of the viruses that causes the common cold. It's similar in structure and genetics to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. "Even two weeks after the coating was applied, it was capable of killing more than 99.9 percent of the coronaviruses within two hours," Gerba said. "This technology creates a new barrier in controlling the spread of viruses in indoor environments."
So, what's the difference between an antimicrobial coating and the disinfectants you're currently using?
"Disinfectants are germ-killing chemicals sprayed on as a liquid and then wiped off with a cloth to clean the surface," says William Li, MD, physician scientist and author of Eat To Beat Disease. "Antimicrobial coatings are made of chemical elements that kill bacteria and viruses generally impregnated into a polymer that can be used to coat and adhere to a surface, thereby protecting it." Translation? "Any germs that fall onto the surface are killed," Li sums up.
Up until this point, antimicrobial surface coatings have been industrial products primarily used in hospitals and in public restrooms as a means to lower the risk of infection. "While the use of antimicrobials on surfaces at hospitals, restaurants, and other public establishments may make sense, the risk-benefit ratio of exposure to chemicals, and possibly the resulting increased resistance rate of bacteria and viruses, needs to be carefully assessed," says Cathy Wang, MD, advisor to Fruit Street Health and CovidMD. "It is possible that by touching a treated surface you could be exposed [to those chemicals] through mucus membranes or by ingestion."
Li also cautions that "the average consumer should stick to using disinfectants and detergents that are inexpensive and easy to apply, as well as proper hand-washing to stay clean."
But Gerba says that antimicrobial coatings could make all the difference in public places as long as they're used properly. "As communities are reopening after weeks of stay-at-home restrictions, there is significant interest in minimizing surface contamination and the indirect spread of viruses," he said. "Antimicrobial coatings could provide an additional means of protection, reducing the spread of coronaviruses in indoor environments and public places where there is continuous contamination." And for the disinfectants you should still turn to at home, check out 10 Disinfectants That Kill Coronavirus Faster Than Lysol Wipes.