Novel nanocoatings guard against viruses and bacteria

06 October 2022

New nanocoatings applied to door openers on trains and buses, keypads on cash machines and door handles in doctors’ surgeries could help to stop the spread of viruses and bacteria.

Surfaces in such highly frequented areas can promote the transmission of viruses or bacteria with dangerous consequences, especially for older people, small children, and those with previous illnesses.

Nanocoatings applied to surfaces should restrict these transmission routes in the future, thanks to an EU research project led by Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) and the University of Birmingham.

The project – involving 15 European partners from industry and academia – is developing nanocoatings that should prevent contact infections via surfaces and thereby increase health protection.

Researchers are developing various substances that enable highly flexible and durable coatings, have a broad spectrum of antiviral and antimicrobial properties, and avoid the development of resistance.

“Outbreaks of highly infectious pathogens such as noroviruses, E. coli, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have shown how important it is to interrupt transmission chains,” says Dr Frank Schreiber, coordinator of the project at BAM.

“In our project, we want to combine modern nanotechnologies with innovative materials to develop surface coatings that protect us from pathogens that are mainly transmitted via surfaces,” adds project coordinator Prof. Artemis Stamboulis from the University of Birmingham.

The researchers’ focus is on nanoparticles and antimicrobial peptides – protein molecules that are also naturally produced by living organisms to defend themselves against bacteria. In addition, the experts will investigate whether the antiviral and antibacterial effects can also be achieved via nanoscale surface modifications of high-touch materials – combining nano-structures with chemical modifications to enable even better protection.

Experts will test the efficacy of the nanocoatings both in the laboratory and under real-world conditions, for example in nursing homes. They will develop new test methods, which then should lead to new standards for antiviral and antibacterial testing of high-touch materials. In addition, the researchers will investigate the safety aspects of nanomaterials through detailed studies on human and environmental toxicity and life cycle analyses.

The project will run until August 2026 and the first results are expected in February 2024.