Careful and frequent scrubbing of one’s hands and fingernails with soap and water and the use of alcogel have been recommended to all for reducing the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. But water alone?
Researchers at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) in Ramat Gan (near Tel Aviv) have accomplished what seems impossible – to use an electrochemical process to turn ordinary tap water into a safe and inexpensive disinfectant for hands and surfaces in hospitals, supermarkets, kindergartens and other public places.
The patented technology, developed a year ago and tested on COVID-19 at the Baruch Padeh-Poriah Medical Center in Tiberias, will become available to manufacturers who purchase the knowhow from BIU.
Prof. Doron Aurbach and colleagues in BIU’s Department of Chemistry and Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials used electrodes to turn water into a simple disinfectant that eliminates viruses and bacteria and avoids the environmental damage of existing disinfectants. Working with Dr. Eran Avraham and Dr. Izaak Cohen, Aurbach was able to adapt water technology as a means of fighting pathogens; extensive tests on the product’s effects on pathogens were conducted by Dr. Inna Kalt and Dr. Dr.Tatiana Borodianskiy Shteinberg of Prof. Ronit Sarid’s lab in BIU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and proven to kill the new coronavirus.
Tap water was put through a controlled electrochemical process and stored as disinfectant in recycled or multi-purpose containers. The result was a safe material that could be used not only on hands but also on clothing, air conditioners, handles, curtains, beds and surfaces of any kind. Further development may also be suitable for human disinfection. When one removes a face mask and gloves, they too can be sprayed and safely reused, the team said. Eliminating the need for alcohol gel prevents the skin from drying out.
The antiseptic produced from water are 100 times more effective than bleach and therefore has a low concentration of between 50 and 200 milligrams per liter of the ingredients to achieve neutralization activity (unlike bleach, which needs between 5,000 and 20,000 mgl). This means they are much more environmentally friendly. The liquid does not cause corrosion, and most importantly: at a concentration of 50 mg of which is a very small amount of an active substance; it doesn’t cause skin burns or painful and itchy rashes. The possibility that these disinfectants are very effective in treating wounds is also being investigated.
When stored in containers without electrodes, the disinfectant can be used for up to two months and can be sold in recyclable bottles. When stored in reusable bottles, electrodes can be added to turn water, using a simple electrical process, into disinfectant for long-term use.
Sarid, who researches viruses in her laboratory, is conducting a study of various types. “We are investigating the ability of substances to ham the infectious power of the type-1 herpes simplex virus and of the OC43 human coronavirus that causes relatively mild respiratory infection in humans,” she explained.
“The two viruses were completely neutralized when exposed to Prof. Aurbach’s disinfectant. The structure of OC43 is similar to that of SARS-COVID-19 that recently broke out, so it is possible to reach the conclusion that this virus too will easily be neutralized by the water-based disinfectant,” she continued.
About 60 BIU research teams are working around the clock on research to deal with the new coronavirus. The extensive research activities are led by BIU president, Prof. Arie Zaban and vice president for research Prof. Shulamit Michaeli, who identified the value of interdisciplinary research that will address all the complex aspects of dealing with the virus, from the scientific-medical aspect to the psychosocial aspect.