Simple saline masks may be impassable barrier to coronavirus

The coronavirus epidemic in China has generated a tremendous demand for face masks, provided an excellent opportunity for their manufacturers to earn money, and at the same time highlighted all the critical vulnerabilities of this protection. With the scale of use that is observed now, from a means of protection, masks have turned into a means of spreading the virus and have themselves become a source of threat. Largely due to the fact that, due to the shortage, people are forced to rarely change masks and wear them much longer than the standard time.

Supermarket masks were never designed to stop respiratory viruses that are much smaller than the pore width of the mask. Products of the N95 / N99 class may help, with some probability, but they are expensive and inconvenient in everyday life. In any case, after several hours of wearing, the mask gets wet from the breath, and this humid environment becomes an excellent source for the spread of the virus. If you take such a mask in your hands, you can already get infected from it.

Biomedical engineer Hugh-Jick Chow from the University of Alberta (Canada) suggested treating masks with a solution of a mixture of two salts, potassium chloride and sodium chloride. Upon contact with phlegm, they dissolve in the liquid, mix with it, and when it begins to dry out, the salts crystallize. The sharp edges of the crystals damage viruses mechanically and thereby destroy them.

The solution was tested on three strains of influenza and made sure that after 5 minutes the virus becomes inactive, and after 30 minutes it completely dies. The nature of the coronavirus is similar to the flu, which means that the technology can be used against it. The initial components of the solution are cheap and widely available, so it is a matter of time and funding to create a convenient ready-made spray for processing masks.