A group of Argentine scientists has developed a chinstrap (mask) for “social use” with antiviral and antibacterial capacity, which can be washed up to fifteen times and which reduces the chances of SARS-CoV-2 penetration into the body, which causes the disease known as COVID-19.

“It is a face mask for social use, it is not for professionals. It was designed that way, to have wide availability and to be made in different companies,” said the Argentine Minister of Science and Technology, Roberto Salvarezza, in a meeting by videoconference with the media on Tuesday. foreign.

Use of silver nanoparticles and copper ions

Said face mask is a joint work of several institutions, including the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research of Argentina (Conicet), whose premise was to make a product as affordable as possible and that included both antiviral and bactericidal capacity.

The end result of this work is a mask built with cotton and polyester fabrics, which appears divided into two layers: one of them contains active bactericides and fungicides, while the other also adds the antiviral component, allowing the virus to be inactivated in such only five minutes.

To do this, the scientists modified these fabrics with a polymeric aggregate to which they added, on the one hand, copper ions, which have the highest antiviral load, and, on the other, silver nanoparticles, another of the metals with antimicrobial activity.

“This combination, plus the incorporation of the waterproofing agent, reduces the possibility that the microdroplets transmitted by viruses can pass through the fabric, thus generating an effective barrier and that, if microorganisms are retained, it disables them for their growth,” he pointed out. during the meeting Roberto Candal, Conicet principal investigator.

In any case, the scientist stressed that these fabrics “are not suitable for manufacturing protective elements for doctors and paramedics”, but rather allow generating “protection for the community and for workers who are most exposed” to contagion.

Silvia Goyanes, also a researcher at Conicet, recalled in this regard that this mask contributes to reducing the chances of contagion of the virus, but it is by no means an “anticovid” mask, something non-existent for now.

Affordable materials on the market

Goyanes emphasized that one of the main characteristics of the product is that its production is the “standard in any textile factory”, in order to facilitate its commercialization as much as possible.

“One thing that we took into account when designing the chinstrap is that it could be generated in a large quantity (…). All the ingredients, from the polymers to the active ingredients that we put in, are products that are obtained massively in Argentina. There is no problem that an asset or a product used is missing, “said the scientist.

Another differential factor is that it can wash up to fifteen times without losing any of its faculties.

Likewise, it is not advisable to use it for more than six hours in a row, because the fabric begins to get wet, thus favoring the reproduction of other microorganisms, so “the ideal is to renew it every four hours”.

In this sense, the mask is already available for sale to the public and as of today “about five million face masks per month would be in production,” according to Minister Salvarezza.

Its price varies depending on the buyer and the position of sale, being around 300 pesos (about 3 dollars) for individual use and 150 pesos (1.5 dollars) per unit if it is purchased in large quantities.

“It is a very economical price and very accessible for anyone. The price is in the order of any face mask that can be bought today,” said the Argentine Minister of Science and Technology.

A four-month development

The start-up of this product began in April and in the third week of May “it was already in the plant”, so the total development circuit lasted “less than four months”, something “difficult to achieve usually in non-pandemic times. “said Ana María Lloris, director of the executing unit of the Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

This antiviral and antibacterial mask joins other scientific innovations carried out by Argentina in the framework of this disease, such as the hyperimmune serum or rapid diagnostic kits, among others.

In this case, there was also the participation of a small technology company from the province of Buenos Aires and there are already “many SMEs” interested in making developments of this type, which shows, according to Goyanes, that the “State has adequate answers and in a short time “.

“By showing the capacity it has from the antiviral and antibacterial point of view, it motivated the SME to try to go for the masks for medical use. They are the ones who call us every day to say ‘let’s extrapolate this development to a medical mask ‘(…). The companies tell us’ come on, come on, come on, we ask for the loans’, and that seems to me to change a way of thinking, “said the Conicet researcher.

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