Engineering water nanostructures as a new technology against SARS-CoV-2

In a recent study published in the journal MDPI NanomaterialsA U.S. (US) research team has shown that it is possible to inactivate substitutes for severe acute respiratory syndrome 2 coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) using specific nanostructures of naturally occurring antimicrobial water on surfaces.

Study: Inactivate SARS-CoV-2 substitutes on surfaces using water nanostructures embedded with naturally occurring antimicrobials. Image credit: peterschreiber.media / Shutterstock

Although many effective vaccines have been developed against SARS-CoV-2, which is the cause of the pandemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we need more weapons in our armaments. Therefore, stopping the spread of COVID-19 through environmental disinfection and virus deactivation has become an important weapon in the fight against this global health threat.

Various technologies have been introduced and tested for this purpose, such as ultraviolet light, ozone and acid clouds, to name a few. The issue is the decontamination of sensitive surfaces, such as those used for food processing.

In addition, the unlimited use of bleach and alcohol products also has a negative impact on our environment. On the other hand, soaps and hand sanitizers can damage sensitive human skin and cause irritation and other problems.

Unknown possibilities offered by nanomaterial engineering

Because of these problems, nanotechnology-based solutions have been considered as another promising option because of their great advantages over conventional methods. More specifically, engineered nanomaterials (such as polymeric nanoparticles and magnetic nanoparticles) have been used to inactivate various microorganisms, including coronaviruses.

The nanoscale nature of these engineering materials gives them a high ratio of advantage and surface volume, which is why they are so effective against viruses. However, potential toxicity, low yields, and instability hinder the proper application of engineered nanomaterials, leading to the need to find safer nano alternatives.

That’s why a research team from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Amherst University in Massachusetts and Rutgers University in the US has proposed an antimicrobial-based platform for nanotechnology to address the COVID-19 threat called Engineering Water Nanostructures (EWNS). .

Detailed outline of the formation of the EWNS and the inoculated surface treatment of HCoV-229E (a).  The structure of an EWNS (b) individual with AI, ROS, and charges is also shown.Detailed outline of the formation of the EWNS and the inoculated surface treatment of HCoV-229E (a). The structure of an EWNS (b) individual with AI, ROS, and charges is also shown.

Creating nanotubes

The main process underlying the emergence of EWNS is the combined process of electrospray ionization, where nanoset aerosols are synthesized using a combination of electrospray and ionization of antimicrobial water suspensions.

In fact, different EWNS were synthesized using single active components and their combinations. They were nanoscale in size and contained antimicrobial agents and reactive oxygen species, which are essential for neutralization.

The researchers then conducted experiments where these mixtures were used to fight a common human coronavirus 229E, which causes a common cold, on the replacement surfaces of SARS-CoV-2.

High efficiency and fast deactivation

The results of this study demonstrated that EWNS human coronavirus 229E 3.8, which was produced with hydrogen peroxide, lysozyme, citric acid, triethylene glycol, and nisin cocktail, was able to inactivate within 30 seconds of treatment.

Specifically, EWNS nano-disinfectants created with different substances were able to significantly inactivate human coronavirus 229E on a surface by providing only low levels of active ingredients. At five minutes of treatment, there were no significant differences in all five active ingredients assessed.

And among these, the aforementioned hydrogen peroxide produced the highest level of so-called biphasic inactivation, which has been seen in several previous studies with the antimicrobial efficacy test. Moreover, compared to baseline EWNS, the results were not significantly better after the addition of individual active ingredients.

A promising and non-toxic solution

In summary, these results highlight the effectiveness of using EWNS technology as a nanocarrier to deliver a small dose of common cold coronavirus while inactivating it, making it an attractive solution against SARS-CoV-2.

“It is important to note that the active ingredients used and delivered using the EWNS nano-carrier platform are non-toxic and naturally occurring, and are only given in small amounts (nanogram level),” the study authors point out in an article published in the journal. Nanomaterials.

However, additional testing is also needed, as this focused on inactivating the skin virus. Therefore, future research should focus on the tendency of EWNS nano aerosols to interact with the virus suspended in the air to provide effective inactivation.

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