The prevention of surface contamination is more important now than ever before.

Michael Lucas, a mechanical engineer and a doctoral student at Wits, has developed an infection control solution. Photo: Provided.

A doctoral student at Wits University has developed an infection control solution that could prevent the transmission of bacteria. The technology could indirectly assist hospitals in their efforts against the spread of Covid-19.

Michael Lucas, a mechanical engineer, has developed a surface coating solution that inhibits the growth of bacteria and other pathogens on high-contact surfaces, or actively kills them.

Lucas’s ongoing research into his solution comes at a time when hospitals in South Africa are bracing themselves for the peak of the Covid-19 spread in the country. The need for constant sanitization is greater than ever and infection control solutions are necessary to manage the ever-increasing case load.

Lucas says, “The idea would be for these coatings to be a supplementary solution, to work alongside current infection control and sanitisation approaches.”

Additionally, the solution could also prove valuable against bacterial resistance, which could happen in instances of the increased use of disinfectants into hospital environments and other public spaces.

“As more bacteria become tolerant to sanitisers, the use of these antimicrobial surface coatings could become even more beneficial,” he says.

Professor Sandra Van Vuuren, of the department of pharmacy and pharmacology at Wits, assisted in supervising Lucas’s project. She says, “Surface contamination is more important now than ever before.”

“With the ever-increasing development of emerging resistance and infection control, new ways of preventing contamination is critical for both hygiene and saving our current antibiotics for more serious infections,” Van Vuuren added.

The technology, now in its fifth year of development, was initially created to contain the spread of infection in hospitals, as well as other high-contact areas.

However, according to Lucas, the developmental process is never fully complete. Given the current circumstances, a possible new avenue is to testing for anti-viral properties that could fight the coronavirus directly.

“While direct anti-viral testing has not yet been done, it is something I’m looking into because of the relevance of the coronavirus,” he says.

Lucas suggests that the possibility of the solution’s ability to fight the coronavirus is highly conceivable, saying, “The metals I have used have got known anti-viral properties.”

The possible application for this solution is far reaching. So much so that Lucas has created an anti-microbially coated smartphone cover.

“We always have our phones with us. The problem though, is that those surfaces are sites of contamination. So bacteria and fungi can survive on these surfaces and be transmitted to someone else.”

FEATURED IMAGE: An anti-microbially coated smartphone cover developed by Wits student, Michael Lucas. Photo: Provided.