Could SA student's bug-killing coating innovation be applied for Covid-19?
Groundbreaking anti-microbial coating technology earned a South African student the prestigious Prix Hubert Tuor Innovation Award at the International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control in Geneva in 2019.
Refiloe Mpakanyane speaks to Michael Lucas, a doctoral student in bio-mechanical engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University).
He says his research has focused on bacteria and fungi, but his innovation could have a direct application for the Covid-19 virus.
It could also prove extremely beneficial in a post-pandemic world.
I looked into metals that have anti-microbial properties - copper, silver and zinc have got very good innate anti-microbial properties, good at killing bacteria, fungi as well as viruses on contact.Michael Lucas, Doctoral student in bio-mechanical engineering - Wits University
So I looked at incorporating these metals into common hospital surfaces. The target surfaces I focused on were plastics - hospital beds, rails are all made of these plastic materials.Michael Lucas, Doctoral student in bio-mechanical engineering - Wits University
The technology itself is a deposition technique used to coat plastic (polymer metallization)... The coating will last for a long time.Michael Lucas, Doctoral student in bio-mechanical engineering - Wits University
Lucas says receiving an award in Switzerland presented the opportunity to introduce his coating on an international stage.
Right now he's working with Wits Commercial Enterprise, a department of the university which helps get technology into the commercial space.
They envisage a 6-12 month pilot study in partnership with hospitals, which would include funding.
With reference to Covid-19 he notes that while the anti-viral properties of these coatings haven't specifically been tested yet, the metals concerned do have them.
They are good at killing these viruses. Tests specifically have to be done against Covid. But one implication of this Covid pandemic, is what's going to happen afterwards.Michael Lucas, Doctoral student in bio-mechanical engineering - Wits University
So once we go back to a state of normal life again, with the rising use of sanitisers, we could see an upsurge of bacterial resistance specifically within hospitals... giving rise to those hospital superbugs... These coatings would then be even more effective, because they would be helping prevent whatever happens after this pandemic...Michael Lucas, Doctoral student in bio-mechanical engineering - Wits University
Listen to the fascinating discussion: