With the current COVID-19 pandemic and the alarming numbers of positive cases in India, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks have become crucial and a real need for the current times acting as a physical barrier between humans and the virus. However, 100% protection is always a challenge. Further, recent scientific reports have also revealed that SARS-CoV-2 virus remains active on various surfaces with the time duration varying based on the surface of contamination. Remarkably, in the microenvironment on currently used surgical masks, the SARS-CoV-2 has one of the longest survival rates of up to seven days and on a regular cotton cloth up to two days. Although the current PPEs can act as a physical barrier, they do not deactivate the virus.

The group of Praveen Vemula (inStem) has developed a proprietary germicidal-molecule that can be covalently attached to the cotton fabric (any type including household cotton). This fabric can be stitched into PPE such as a face mask. It has been demonstrated that this germicidal molecule can be used on clothes and fabric of any kind to deactivate various infectious microbes including Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria and enveloped viruses even.

SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the family of enveloped viruses, therefore, it is anticipated that such a unique germicidal cloth could also deactivate SARS-CoV-2 virus, thus reducing the chances of infection at the prime source. This active molecule developed in Dr. Praveen Vemula’s lab at inStem has potential for many reasons. Primarily a charged organic molecule that forms the key base of this compound, this is doable which also means scalability factor when it comes to mass production of such ‘germicide-coated’ masks. Furthermore, the process of attaching this compound to the fabric is simple, adaptable, and should be affordable. Research and testing has concluded that this compound remains attached to the fabric for up to 25 cycles of standard detergent wash (industrial grade) at least. One can use such ‘germicidal’ masks efficiently and repeatedly without much fear by just cleaning them with regular soap wash at home or dipping them in boiling water for five minutes and drying, thus resulting in better waste management and environmental pollution. This can be also developed into spray in future. Not the least, this compound can be made in an industrial scale.

The germicidal fabric was manufactured as a reusable mask in 2020.