A new material that can block the coronavirus has been developed by researchers from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Made of copper nanoparticles, which inhibit the proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, it is capable of blocking its spread when applied to masks and cotton fabrics, such as hospital gowns. Also, the researchers point out that it can also adhere to contact surfaces, such as railings or knobs of public transport. Its creators are studying its industrial development to bring it to market.

This new technology consists of nanoparticles that interact with the coronavirus proteins, modifying them through an oxidation mechanism and blocking their ability to infect human cells,” explains researcher Jose Miguel Palomo, who has led the development, leading the Biological Chemistry and Biocatalysis group of the Institute of Catalysis and Petrol chemistry of the CSIC (ICP-CSIC). According to the team, this new material is very efficient in inhibiting the functional proteins of SARS-CoV-2, especially the 3CLpro protease, which is involved in the virus replication process; and the spike protein, which allows the virus to enter human cells. This has been demonstrated by Palomo’s team, in collaboration with researchers Olga Abian and Adrian Velazquez, from the Aragon Health Research Institute (IIS Aragon), the Aragonese Institute of Health Sciences (IACS), and the University of Zaragoza.

“These copper nanoparticles are homogeneously distributed embedded on a protein matrix, thus generating a biocompatible material, which also allows keeping the nanoparticles adhered”, indicates the researcher. Copper species with a single oxidation state. The high efficiency of this nanomaterial to kill these viruses is because the active component is very small copper nanoparticles, which increases the efficiency, since it is made up of copper species with a single oxidation state, which allows obtaining a high biological activity, not observed so far with other compounds, according to the researchers.

Researchers have confirmed that these nanomaterials can be used as coating additives on various surfaces. This material has been tested for lining approved polypropylene surgical masks, or cotton cloth (gowns). «This is of great interest since it would allow having a new type of effective masks with direct inactivation against SARS-CoV-2, in addition to preventing transmission by a mechanical barrier (filtration), and it would also allow having textile protection agents for hospital use ”, detail the researchers. Also applicable on metal surfaces.

The new material has also been successfully applied to metallic materials, specifically, steel and iron, so that it can be used as a material for coating contact surfaces, both handrails or knobs, for use, for example, in the transport sector. public, scientists say.This nanomaterial is also extremely stable: it retains its stability even at very high temperatures (> 80ºC), which ensures its use at temperatures of up to 50-60ºC with extreme reliability (for example, when reusing masks). Advantages over other materials, On the other hand, copper has advantages over other metals that are also antimicrobial, such as silver.

In addition to the obvious cost difference, ‘copper is more effective under a broader set of conditions and is even reinforced by conditions that reduce the effectiveness of silver, “they explain from the CSIC. While silver performs well in hot and humid conditions, its effectiveness decreases along with room temperature. Copper, however, maintains its effectiveness over a greater range of temperature and humidity. Also, the toxicity of silver is 65 times greater than that of copper, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We are investigating the development of the product in scaling and various studies in the different materials that would allow its implementation to the market,” they advance.