By Ellen Kissane
A newly developed ‘decontamination wipe’, produced by a NUI Galway-based company, holds promise in tackling the impact of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic.
Aquila Biosicence have announced that their breakthrough technology, Anti-Bioagent Wipe (ABwipeTM), will be used to provide the Irish Defence Forces with greater protection against contracting the contagious disease and to allow them to carry out their duties safely. The wipe also serves as a valuable tool for first-responders, healthcare workers and civilians in the prevention among the general population.
ABwipeTM works to decontaminate surfaces, including human skin, from bacterial, viral and biotoxin threats. Its technology operates by binding to pathogens on the targeted surface and works on the virus’s attack mechanism (consisting of carbohydrates and proteins) to remove and capture the infectious microbes. As COVID-19 can remain on surfaces for periods ranging from a few hours up to nine days, according to the nascent scientific research, decontamination by wipe holds the potential to stunt the rapid transmission of the disease from person to person.
Mimicking the natural human defence mechanism against infection, the Anti-Bioagent wipe does not contain any harmful chemicals and can be used on skin as well as the eyes, nose and mouth – the most likely conduits for virus infection. The cellulose-based product is also touted as being biodegradable, indicating that it also poses no risk to environmental health nor human health.
Funded by the European Defence Agency, this innovative technology has been in development for over four years. Its concept originated in “an identified capability need in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear (CBRN) protection measures”, said Professor Lokesh Joshi, co-founder and director of Aquila Bioscience. ABwipeTM was created in collaboration with the Irish Defence Forces and was initially intended to protect the troops from general biological threat. However, the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 has provoked an urgency and narrowed focus of ABwipeTM and has seen the Defence Forces commit to the purchase of a consignment of the product.
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, continues to spread at a rapid pace worldwide. First identified in December 2019, the virus was recognised as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation at the beginning of March and since created an immense strain on the heath services in affected areas. The latest data sees the number of confirmed cases of infection at over 2,000 cases in Ireland and over half a million cases globally.
Healthcare workers and first responders are among the most likely to come into contact with the virus and are most at risk of infection. According to Prof. Joshi, ABwipeTM is just now available for mass manufacture, and the company is currently in discussion with manufacturing partners. Aquila Bioscience’s breakthrough carries hope in stalling the spread of COVID-19 and heralds the increased prospect of technological and scientific innovation providing effective solutions to combat this formidable virus.