MIT scientists: Professors Alexander Klibanov, left, Jianzhu Chen and MIT researcher Jayanta HaldarYesterday, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) scientists announced their creation of antimicrobial paint that kills the influenza virus and other harmful microbes like E. coli. Worldwide, influenza affects three to five million people and kills nearly a half a million annually, including 36,000 Americans. The groundbreaking paint’s compound mixture is thorny, stabbing holes in the membranes of the viruses and killing them. So, who’s funding the research? How will it be used? How effective is it?
It’s not surprising to learn that the U.S. Army and the National Institute of Health provided the money for the research. The implications are vast. The paint kills 99% of the virus exposed to it, and it’s nearly impossible for the microbes to develop immunity since they’re essentially being “popped”, rather than having chemicals attack them. The flu virus is transmitted through the air, and as air circulates in a room it gets captured and destroyed by the paint, vastly reducing human exposure. And, while the paint is prickly on a microscopic level, it looks and feels like normal paint.
Influenza is responsible for what was probably the largest collective medical tragedy in history. More than 37 million people died in World War I (1914 – 1918), including both military and civilians. However, many people don’t realize that 50 to 100 million people died in the 1918 – 1919 global Spanish flu epidemic – as many as three times the Great War casualties. The Black Plague that wiped out most of Europe in the 1300s is the only comparable pandemic, killing at least 75 million people.
The anti-flu paint could be used virtually everywhere, from homes and businesses to hospitals and schools. It has the same lifespan as regular paint. Tests are ongoing, and the paint is being tweaked for practical use. There’s no date given for when we can expect it on the market.
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