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Hohenstein develops textile finishing with dual qualities
Dec '13
As part of an AiF research project (AiF no. N 17407), scientists from the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim (Germany) have, for the first time, developed a textile finishing with both an antiviral and an antibacterial function.

This technology can be used for products in nurseries, child day care centres and hospitals to interrupt chains of infection.

Most infection-induced respiratory problems are caused by viruses. For example, the respiratory syncytial virus, a pathogen belonging to the family of paramyxoviruses, can cause infections of the upper respiratory tract in the form of colds, coughs, acute bronchitis or even pneumonia, particularly in small children.

At the start of winter, the rate of infections in child day care centres and nurseries regularly increases. Diarrhoea caused by noroviruses and rotaviruses as well as bacterial infections of the respiratory tract and the alimentary tract, on the other hand, are "in season" all year round.

To avoid droplet and smear infections as far as possible, hygienic hands, textiles and surfaces are of paramount importance.

The essential factor in avoiding or limiting the spread of disease in childcare facilities is regular and thorough hand-washing, by children and their carers.

However, textiles can also play a part in spreading pathogens. Viruses do not have their own metabolism and can therefore only survive for a limited time outside a host, and unlike bacteria, do not multiply there.

However, as studies have impressively documented, textiles that are in regular contact with hands have been proven to contribute to the spread of viruses (Sauver et al., 1998). In a scientific examination, clothes as well as domestic and hospital textiles in the form of bed linen, towels, kitchen towels and so on are, alongside hands, an important potential transmission route for viruses.

Surfaces of all kinds, which can also be contaminated by viruses and bacteria via the hands or air, are the third key transmission route for viruses. One important element in preventing infection is therefore the cleaning of surfaces. The Hohenstein scientists are investigating these factors in their current research project.

The test design included cleaning cloths in which, for the first time, antiviral and antibacterial effectiveness were combined with each other in one functional textile finishing. "Over the long term, we are interested in finding out whether the risk of infection, that is to say the spread of germs from person to person, can be reduced by using biofunctional textiles in the future," says Prof. Höfer, head of the hygiene, environment and medicine department.

To achieve this goal, various organic and inorganic colloidal or nanoparticle copper compounds and copper complexes were first applied in a sol-gel process. The effectiveness of the textile microfibre substrate was optimised using various application techniques such as foulard or spray methods. The inactivation of the test viruses was significant, was retained over 15 washing cycles and was at the same time abrasion-resistant.

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