Saturday, March 2, 2024

UNAM researchers say new face mask neutralizes coronavirus

Researchers at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) have developed a face mask that neutralizes the virus that causes COVID-19, the university announced Thursday.

The university’s official gazette reported that a group from the Materials Research Institute created a three-layer anti-microbial mask that has the capacity to inactivate SARS-CoV-2. The external and internal layers are made out of cotton while the middle nano layer is made out of silver and copper on polypropylene. Those metals were chosen for their anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, according to lead researcher Sandra Rodil.

Working in conjunction with the Hospital Juárez de México in Mexico City, the UNAM researchers proved that the silver-copper nano layer inactivates the virus.

Drops containing the virus were taken from COVID patients at the hospital and placed on the mask’s middle layer. If the viral concentration in the saliva was high, the virus disappeared by more than 80% in eight hours, the researchers observed. If the viral concentration was low, none of the ribonucleic acid, or RNA, of the virus was detected after two hours.

The researchers also found that the silver-copper nano layer could counteract a range of infection-causing bacteria that are commonly found in hospitals.

Called SakCu – Sak means silver in Mayan and Cu is the chemical symbol for copper – the anti-viral mask can be washed up to 10 times without losing its biocidal properties. It is 50% effective at preventing the entry of tiny, aerosol-like particles and 80-90% effective at stopping PM 2.5 fine particles, the gazette said.

The incorrect disposal of SakCu is unproblematic in terms of risk of exposure to the coronavirus because unlike other face masks it won’t remain contaminated, the gazette added.

While the UNAM academics are confident in the virus-fighting properties of the mask they created, their research has not yet been peer reviewed. The university has the capacity to produce at least 200 of the masks per day and they will soon go on sale at Tienda UNAM, a retail store on the university’s campus in the south of Mexico City.

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