Dallas-based biotechnology company Allied BioScience has developed a product that is proven to kill coronavirus for up to 90 days on surfaces, providing a solution for high contact environments that can’t be cleaned after every use such as subways, classrooms, airplanes, and factories.
The invisible nontoxic solution is continuously active and kills 99.9 percent of coronavirus after two hours of contact, and continues to do so for three to four months after first application.
Lab testing of the product was led by Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona. When his staff studies how viruses move through bodies using tracer viruses, he found that a virus in one place can spread to 50 percent of surfaces and people in just four hours. “You don’t realize how many surfaces people are touching,” Gerba says.
Classrooms won’t be able to be completely wiped down during every passing period, and it will be nearly impossible to disinfect every arm rest between flights, so a long lasting product is essential for those organizations to keep their space COVID-free. Factories, offices, and other high touch areas will benefit greatly from long-term solutions.
The product is meant to be used every few months, and lasts between cleanings with regular disinfectant. It was tested in local hospitals over the last several months, and has held up well with regular cleaning. The product works against a broad spectrum of bacteria as well as viruses, which are more difficult to kill. “I didn’t know it would hold up that long but it did,” Gerba says. “I have been studying anti-microbials for 30 years, and it is not easy to do.”
While protecting surfaces is important, it isn’t clear how much it will impact actual spread of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control says it is mostly spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets during coughing, sneezing, or talking. “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” CDC says. This study in Science magazine says that environmental transmission, rather than person-to-person, accounts for as little as six percent of COVID-19 infections.
But paired with good hand washing, masks, and social distancing when possible, coating surfaces have a role to play in fighting the virus. The product is not yet commercially available, but Allied Bioscience is in discussions with the EPA, FDA, and other federal agencies to receive emergency authorization to use the coatings in a widespread manner. “These important processes govern safety and efficacy. We hope to have a positive update on this matter in the coming weeks,” says CEO Michael Ruley.