Concern about the COVID-19 virus has spurred extra attention to disinfecting surfaces, but the safety created by cleaning always ends with the first person to touch and contaminate it.
To address the fleeting nature of disinfecting often-touched surfaces, a local entrepreneur has developed a new, two-step process that creates a “minefield for viruses and bacteria” that lasts for up to 90 days on all types of surfaces and materials.
It’s being tested now on Mayo Clinic’s ambulances.
Paul Jewison of Omni Solutions explained that this is a “mechanical” disinfecting compared to using traditional chemicals and soaps.
“That’s the simplicity of this. We hit a surface with UV light to disinfect it. That kills DNA, RNA and everything,” he said. “Then we coat everything with BioProtect. When it dries, its molecules form the geometric shape of a sharp needle. Those needles pop the cell walls of viruses and bacteria like a balloon. They just can’t grow there.”
The nontoxic Bioprotect has been used in recent years on wrestling mats to prevent wrestlers from catching diseases from contaminated mats. However, this patent pending process is a new, two-step approach.
Jewison is the general manager for Rochester’s Textile Care Services, which cleans the linens for Mayo Clinic and other area medical centers as well as many of the hotels in the region.
He developed a UV light process to sterilize laundry as it is being washed. Omni Solutions markets that process. Between Textile Care and Omni, disinfection and cleaning are his primary focus.
Before taking this process to Mayo Clinic, he first used it to disinfect surfaces at Textile Care.
Last week, Jewison’s team used a large UV light on the first five Mayo Clinic Ambulances and then sprayed a coating of the clear BioProtect material inside.
“We coated everything you can imagine ... all of the contact surfaces, like gas caps, all interior components, the radio. The steering wheel was coated twice,” he said.
The clear liquid leaves surfaces with a slightly silky feel that is the only sign of the coating. The protection of the coating is designed to last up to 90 days.
Mike Sveen, safety and emergency planning coordinator for Mayo Clinic Ambulance, is optimistic about the process.
While the ambulance service already uses UV lights to disinfect vehicles followed by a deep cleaning, the idea of a protective coating that can last for weeks was very attractive.
“We were initially approached by Omni Solutions. We decided to give it a try,” he said. “From everything we’ve heard, it’s a superior product.”
To test its effectiveness, Mayo Clinic plans to do swab samples to check for contamination after ambulance runs and before the regular cleaning.
If it works well, the process could be extended to other Mayo Clinic vehicles, like helicopters.
When told about Bioprotect, the ambulance crews watching the process asked to spray their jackets and protective gear with the material, said Sveen.
Jewison says Bioprotect can keep clothing virus-free either through spraying or in the washing process.
While bugs, like viruses, can mutate and adapt to fight off chemical disinfectants, there is not way for a bug to defeat this mechanical process.
“The beauty of this, for Destination Medical Center Rochester in particular, is that a treated hotel room is as safe as a hospital room,” he said.