Scientists analyze efficacy of decontamination technology in eradicating bacteria and viruses such as human coronaviruses in frequently worn items

Decontamination technology study published in Pathogens

A photo of Subhash Verma, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology and Timsy Uppal, Ph.D., research scientist, department of microbiology and immunology posing with the dry-sanitizing device.

Subhash Verma, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology (left) and Timsy Uppal, Ph.D., research scientist, department of microbiology and immunology (right) pose with a dry-sanitizing device. Their study on inactivation of coronavirus by a dry sanitization device was published in the journal Pathogens. Photo by Brin Reynolds/UNR Med.

In response to the global need for effective sterilization techniques, researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) collaborated on a study evaluating the efficacy of a dry-sanitizing device.

Subhash Verma, Ph.D., associate professor, department of microbiology and immunology at UNR Med, led the study. Verma, Timsy Uppal, Ph.D., research scientist, department of microbiology and immunology, UNR Med; Antoine Snijders, Ph.D., biologist staff scientist, Berkeley Lab; and Amir Khazaieli, founder and chief product officer, Fathhome, Inc., collaborated on the study on inactivation of coronavirus by a dry sanitization device, published in the journal, Pathogens.  

Researchers confirmed that under the conditions tested, the Fathhome dry-sanitizing device may provide a safe and viable solution for rapid decontamination of coronoviruses from worn items, frequently touched items, and personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95s, face shields and other personal items.  

"We tested inactivation of human coronavirus, HCoV-OC43, a close genetic model of SARS-CoV-2, on porous (N95 masks) and nonporous (glass) surfaces", said Verma. "We started our analysis with a 10 minute exposure, which was able to effectively reduce 99.8-99.9% of virus from glass and N95 filtering facepiece respirator surfaces. The virus was completely inactivated after 15 minutes on both tested surfaces."  

The tested device is a receptacle, the size of a medium trash can, inside which items are placed to be dry-sanitized. It uses air pressure and ionization to decontaminate viruses and bacteria. After a 15-minute exposure to ozone in the device, items are decontaminated.  

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the increased demand for surgical masks, N95s and other PPE led to dwindling supplies. Repeated usage of single-use disposable PPE poses the risk of spreading the virus to patients or other health care workers, if supplies become contaminated.  

"Existing decontamination strategies of PPE, including ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, heat sterilization, chemical disinfectants, microwave radiation, and vapor phase hydrogen peroxide can effectively reduce pathogen load, but damage to the material may result in poor fit, reduced filtration efficiency, and breathability, which will in turn increase the wearer's potential exposure to pathogens," said Verma. "This leads to a demand for standardized, sustainable decontamination systems."  

Researchers demonstrated that the decontamination environment provided by the portable ozone-based "dry sanitizer" appears to reduce  human coronavirus, HCoV-OC43 viral genomic RNA stability and virus infectivity. "While we do not endorse products, our study indicates that ozone-based disinfection results in reduction of viral viability and is suitable for rapid decontamination of various environmental surfaces, PPE, and personal items," said Verma.  

"Ending the COVID-19 pandemic requires strategies for treating and vaccinating patients, but technologies that help stop transmission prior to infection are also critical," said UNR Med Associate Dean for Biomedical Research, Lucia Notterpek, Ph.D. "We are very proud to have Dr. Verma and colleagues at UNR Med advancing technologies that can play a crucial role in disinfecting everyday items, thereby reducing the spread of a coronavirus."  

Berkeley Lab's contribution to the research was supported by the Department of Energy's Office of Technology Transitions.

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The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Released: Tuesday April 20, 2021 @ 8:00 AM