The Move to Passive Microbiological Protection

June 11, 2022

Ensuring Impact of All Microbiological Threats in Last Stages of the Pandemic and Into the Future are Dealt with More Efficiently with Less Resources

A discussion document authored by Professor James Frame FRCS, and Dr Tom Frame Phd. 

Background: After several false alarms around pandemics in recent history, SARS-CoV-2, known as Covid-19 had, and continues to have an impact on almost aspects of life. 

In general the way that governments, organisations and individuals have dealt with the pandemic, outside of vaccines, has been mainly direct measure. 

  • Wearing PPE such as masks
  • Social distancing
  • Avoiding densely crowded areas, leisure, travel with working from home
  • Physical barriers etc. 
  • Cleaning and sterilising (2 distinct tasks) more often, generally attempting to engage more human resources for increased manual hygiene tasks. 

Where we are now: Estimates are that in the UK we between halfway and two-thirds through the pandemic with many potential pitfalls and seasonality causes and effects still to encounter. 

According to official site report dated 1st June in England alone,  35,473 positive tests were recorded in 7 days previous ( lateral flow tests had been withdrawn from free public issue), there were 3074 hospital admissions in seven days before report and in last 28 days 358 deaths were recorded. As with all coronaviruses there will be a seasonal influence in addition to consider. 

Most guidelines have now been removed regarding the pandemic and mainly borders are open, travel restrictions are gone or significantly reduced and life is returning to normal.

The extra hygiene and staffing measures that were a part of the pandemic are being removed or scaled down. 

We are seeing news regarding other, and sometimes new, pathogenic threats such as Monkeypox, but constant microbiological threats such as Noravirus, E-Coli etc. could be considered as ever present but increasingly more relevant dangers due to the impact of most of the population being locked up and exercising much higher personal hygiene resulting in potentially less immunity. 

There are potential mental and physical health issue where a sizable minority feel anxiety at being in crowded spaces and may become partially housebound  

What are the risks we face in the future: 

New variants of SARS-CoV-2 and increases in pandemic numbers during the winter period without direct guidelines such as mask wearing, social distancing and increased cleaning and hygiene protocols and with a fatigued public resisting going back to punitive lockdown conditions. 

The risk also is that different but new microbiological strains such as Monkeypox have the potential to get make an impact globally, as well as being very newsworthy in our post pandemic situation. 

There is also the risk that society continues to develop a sizable minority that are very germ aware, are suffering effects of long Covid, and new psychological conditions such as long social distancing meaning that the likelihood of the economy returning to pre-pandemic levels are becoming more difficult to envisage without a new approach to help people overcome their fears, especially as most have abandoned masks, social distancing and businesses have reduced hygiene and cleaning schedules. 

How can late-stage pandemic risks be managed, future punitive measures avoided, and businesses plan for any future outbreaks without massive and unnecessary costs? 

In one word, automation, of tasks normally undertaken by workers. Automation that works continuously, uses less resources, and provides a standardised outcome of work that manual workers cannot provide.
We have many parallels in industrial world that we are familiar with from robotics in automobile production, to driverless trains etc. 

In terms of cleaning and hygiene, the majority of sterilisation is still undertaken by workers either by spraying and wiping with chemicals or by spreading of chemicals over an area by mechanical and/or electrical means by fogging, electrostatic sprayers etc. The effect is only as good as the surfaces that are covered, and bits may be missed, especially behind surfaces and the impact may also be impacted by being reinfected almost immediately after the treatment. 

Recent adaptations of technology developed for other application to be used for automatic sterilisation have proved to only partially effective. In particular UV light technology has been adapted to provide an automatic labour-free solution to sterilising escalators and lift compartments but with usage restrictions around humans being exposed to UV light, UV bulbs only having a certain coverage on a surface, and high maintenance costs. 

Until now there appeared to be no viable automated alternative to standard cleaning with chemicals either done manually or by spraying. What was needed was an automated, almost ‘fit and forget’ solution that could sit in background and passively protect and sterilise an area or a high touch surface not once a day but every minute of every day because no one knows when that risk of cross contamination will occur. What was needed was a solution that did not use a chemical or a technology that came with its own risks and required controls to used safely, and was both environmentally friendly and sustainable. 

The future of automatic passive protection for continual sterilisation of high-risk areas and surfaces is here, and it comes from space-age technology: Cold Plasma Technology.

Plasma is the 4th state of matter and in simple terms is generated by applying energy and magnetic forces to air and the subsequent plasma gas has the effect of eradicating microorganisms to a level of kill known as extreme. 

Plasma is an 'invisible super-gas’ that is produced when natural molecules of atmospheric gases like nitrogen, oxygen and water vapour are subjected to an electrical arc in a controlled environment. The already highly moving gas molecules rapidly speed up and are disrupted with the effect that electrons are split off their constituent atoms. 

Cold Plasma kills all viruses, bacteria, fungi and biofilms to extremely high levels but in a very safe, convenient and affordable way. As the 1st technology,with its primary function of sterilisation, to be a gas it can reach back and front of surfaces, over and under, back and front,  and at molecular (not droplet) level sterilise almost all nooks and crannies. 

Using only atmospheric air as its raw material cold plasma, marketed by OXONOX, part of Nox Worldwide Limited, a UK based manufacturing and research and development organisation, has launched the world’s 1st cold plasma units for two initial applications;

  • The total sterilisation of escalators, travelators and any moving belts
  • The sterilisation of the air in a lift compartment 

These applications have been chosen by OXONOX to help owners of offices, retail, hospitality, transport, and leisure convince users and visitors that their facilities are passively and continually protected and its safe to use busy escalators or travelators and get into lifts with other people. 

With ‘fit and forget’ convenience, high performance, safe around humans 24/7, and negligible running and maintenance costs with no labour input or consumables OXONOX cold plasma solutions offers the next level of unseen and crucial protection for the next unknown part of the pandemic and the future.

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