Scientists at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester warned that a virus similar to the strain that causes Covid-19 can survive on clothing and spread to other surfaces for up to 72 hours.
In a study examining how the coronavirus behaves on three types of fabrics commonly used in the healthcare industry, researchers found that the traces can remain infectious for up to three days.
Under the leadership of microbiologist Dr. Katie Laird, virologist Dr. Maitreyi Shivkumar, and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Lucy Owen, this research involves adding droplets of a model coronavirus called HCoV-OC43, whose structure and survival mode are similar to those of SARS-CoV-2 is very similar, which leads to Covid-19-polyester, polyester cotton and 100% cotton.
The results show that polyester is the highest risk of spreading the virus. The infectious virus still exists after three days and may be transferred to other surfaces. On 100% cotton, the virus lasts for 24 hours, while on polyester cotton, the virus only survives for 6 hours.
Dr. Katie Laird, head of the DMU Infectious Disease Research Group, said: “When the pandemic first started, little was known about how long the coronavirus can survive on textiles.”
“Our findings indicate that the three most commonly used textiles in healthcare are at risk of spreading the virus. If nurses and medical staff take their uniforms home, they may leave traces of the virus on other surfaces.”
Last year, in response to the pandemic, Public Health England (PHE) issued guidelines stating that the uniforms of medical staff should be industrially cleaned, but where it is not possible, the staff should take the uniforms home for cleaning.
At the same time, the NHS Uniform and Workwear Guidelines stipulate that it is safe to clean the uniforms of medical staff at home as long as the temperature is set to at least 60°C.
Dr. Laird is concerned that the evidence supporting the above statement is mainly based on two outdated literature reviews published in 2007.
In response, she suggested that all government medical uniforms should be cleaned in hospitals in accordance with commercial standards or by industrial laundries.
Since then, she has co-published an updated and comprehensive literature review, assessing the risk of textiles in the spread of diseases, and emphasizing the need for infection control procedures when handling contaminated medical textiles.
“After the literature review, the next stage of our work is to assess the infection control risks of cleaning medical uniforms contaminated by the coronavirus,” she continued. “Once we have determined the survival rate of the coronavirus on each textile, we will turn our attention to determining the most reliable washing method to remove the virus.”
Scientists use 100% cotton, the most commonly used health textile, to conduct multiple tests using different water temperatures and washing methods, including household washing machines, industrial washing machines, indoor hospital washing machines, and ozone (a highly reactive gas) cleaning system.
The results showed that the stirring and dilution effect of water was sufficient to remove viruses in all washing machines tested.
However, when the research team soiled textiles with artificial saliva containing the virus (to simulate the risk of transmission from the mouth of an infected person), they found that household washing machines did not completely remove the virus, and some traces survived.
Only when they add detergent and raise the water temperature, the virus is completely wiped out. Investigating the resistance of the virus to heat alone, the results showed that the coronavirus is stable in water up to 60°C, but is inactivated at 67°C.
Next, the team studied the risk of cross-contamination, washing clean clothes and clothes with traces of the virus together. They found that all cleaning systems had removed the virus, and there was no risk of other items being contaminated.
Dr. Laird explained: “Although we can see from our research that even high-temperature washing of these materials in a household washing machine can indeed remove the virus, it does not eliminate the risk of contaminated clothes leaving traces of the coronavirus on other surfaces. Before they were washed at home or in the car.
“We now know that the virus can survive up to 72 hours on certain textiles, and it can also be transferred to other surfaces.
“This research reinforces my recommendation that all medical uniforms should be cleaned on-site in hospitals or industrial laundry rooms. These cleaning methods are supervised, and nurses and medical staff do not have to worry about bringing the virus home.”
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With the support of the British Textile Trade Association, Dr. Laird, Dr. Shivkumar and Dr. Owen shared their findings with industry experts in the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe.
“The response was very positive,” Dr. Laird said. “Textile and laundry associations around the world are now implementing the key information in our health care money laundering guidelines to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.”
David Stevens, chief executive of the British Textile Services Association, the textile care service industry trade association, said: “In the pandemic situation, we have a basic understanding that textiles are not the main transmission vector of the coronavirus.
“However, we do lack information about the stability of these viruses in different fabric types and different washing procedures. This has led to some misinformation floating around and excessive washing recommendations.
“We have considered in detail the methods and research practices used by Dr. Laird and his team, and found that this research is reliable, reproducible and reproducible. The conclusion of this work done by DMU strengthens the important role of pollution control-whether in The home is still in an industrial environment.”
The research paper has been published in the Open Access Journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
In order to carry out further research, the team also collaborated with DMU’s psychology team and Leicester NHS Trust University Hospital on a project to investigate the knowledge and attitudes of nurses and medical staff on cleaning uniforms during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Post time: Jun-18-2021