Antiviral dyes could help tackle COVID-19

Credit: Colorfix

A new type of fabric dye that could support the fight against COVID-19 is being developed by an Innovate UK-funded project.

Colorifix, a biotechnology firm based in Norwich, has pioneered the production and use of natural pigments on a range of fabrics. It has also proved the antimicrobial properties of some of its dyes.

Now the team is working with researchers from the University of Cambridge to develop antiviral, sustainable dyes that could be used for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and much more.

Natural pigments could fight the virus

Dr Neil Williamson, head of microbial engineering at Colorifix, said:

We aim to produce the next generation of safe, sustainable and effective natural antiviral dyes to help tackle COVID-19.

The Colorifix team has previously worked with pigments that are known to possess antiviral properties. The first step, Williamson says, is to find a range of candidate pigments.

We’re looking at a core family of pigments to find the best candidates. We’ll combine it with one of our antimicrobial dyes to create a unique pigment that is antiviral and antimicrobial.

Dyes could fight other viruses and bacteria

The dye will be permanently bound to the fabric, which means it will be long-lasting and durable, and could potentially neutralise other common viruses and bacteria.

Williamson said:

Unlike other surface formulations, our antiviral fabrics don’t aim to physically remove the virus, but to completely deactivate it. It could mean a dramatic reduction in transmission rates.

Dr Ljillana Fruk from the University of Cambridge said:

Not only will Colorifix’s strategy result in sustainable production of plant-inspired pigments and dyed fabrics friendly to the skin, but we are hoping to develop materials which have multiple modes of action against SARS COV-2, both in the dark and under irradiation.

It is an exciting synergy of microbiology, material science and nanotechnology.

Sustainability at its core

The antiviral dyes won’t cost the earth, according to Williamson.

Our patented approach significantly reduces the use of chemicals and water in the manufacturing process.

We hope to develop sustainable, antiviral dyes that could be used in fabric for PPE, on transport, in public settings or even clothing.

Colorifix hopes its relationships with fashion brands, mills and dye houses will mean the product can be scaled-up and enter the market quickly.

Last updated: 17 May 2021

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