Prof. Meital Reches’s research groups is focused on saving lives: 6,000 lives in Israel, 100,000 lives in the United States – and many, many more worldwide. Infectious “superbugs” kill this many hospitalized patients a year, a number that dwarfs the Coronavirus death toll.
Leading her team within the Institute of Chemistry, Prof. Reches has developed a unique coating that can be sprayed onto glass, metal, and plastic surfaces, rendering them resistant to fungus, yeast, and bacteria. The patented spray comprises three amino acids: One of DOPA, which is an extremely strong adhesive that naturally occurs in many forms, including enabling mussels “glue” themselves to any surface; and two of phenylalanine, which is one of the two amino acids that make up aspartame.
DOPA enables Prof. Reches’s spray to stick, while the two phenylalanine amino acids self-assemble on the surface. The phenylalanine is modified with fluorine atoms, resulting in a non-stick surface that resembles Teflon©. Once applied, fungus, yeast, or bacteria are unable to stick or grow on treated surfaces.
What About Viruses?
Until now, Prof. Reches had primarily focused on bacteria, since their interactions and combinations may lead to their development of antibiotic resistance – turning them into “superbugs.”
Then came the Coronavirus. Studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 can remain on metal and glass for up to 5 days, plastic and stainless steel for 2-3 days, and cardboard for one day. Hence an anti-viral coating would serve as a barrier to transmission.
Prof. Reches is currently testing her coating in the lab, using a surrogate for the Coronavirus. Given the similarities between bacteria and virus surfaces (both contain coat proteins) there is reason to hope that her spray will be effective against the Coronavirus as well. If successful, Prof. Reches hopes to market it and gain FDA approval per intended use.
“This innovative spray will be capable of preventing various infections, proving especially valuable as we cope with the current global pandemic.”