Study: Inactivating SARS-CoV-2 Surrogates on Surfaces Using Engineered Water Nanostructures Incorporated with Nature Derived Antimicrobials. Image Credit: / Shutterstock

Engineered water nanostructures as a new technology against SARS-CoV-2

In a recent study published in the MDPI journal: NanomaterialsA research group from the United States (USA) has demonstrated the ability to inactivate surrogates of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on surfaces using specific water nanostructures processed with naturally derived antimicrobials.

Study: Inactivating SARS-CoV-2 Surrogates on Surfaces Using Engineered Water Nanostructures Processed with Nature-Derived Antimicrobials† Image credit:

While numerous effective vaccines have been developed against SARS-CoV-2, a causative agent of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, we need more weapons in our armaments. Therefore, stopping the spread of COVID-19 through environmental disinfection and viral deactivation has become an important weapon in the fight against this global health threat.

For this, several technologies have been introduced and tested, such as ultraviolet light, ozone and acid fog, just to name a few. It involves disinfecting sensitive surfaces, such as those used in food processing.

In addition, the unrestricted use of bleach and alcohol-based products also brings negative externalities to our environment. On the other hand, soaps and hand sanitizers can damage sensitive human skin and cause irritation and other problems.

The unprecedented possibilities of technical nanomaterials

Due to the above issues, nanotechnology-based solutions have been touted as another promising option as they offer huge advantages over conventional methods. More specifically, artificial nanomaterials (such as polymeric nanoparticles and magnetic nanoparticles) have been used to inactivate various microorganisms, including coronaviruses

The nature of such nanoscale engineering materials gives them the edge and a large surface-to-volume ratio, which is why they are so effective against viruses. Still, potential toxicity, low yield, and instability hinder the proper application of engineered nanomaterials, raising the need to find safer nano-alternatives.

This is why a research group from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Rutgers University in the US has proposed a nanotechnology-based antimicrobial platform known as Engineered Water Nanostructures (EWNS) to mitigate the threat addressing COVID-19. †

Detailed scheme to show the generation of EWNS and the treatment of HCoV-229E inoculated surface (a).  The structure of an individual EWNS (b) containing the AI, ROS and charges is also shown.Detailed scheme to show the generation of EWNS and the treatment of HCoV-229E inoculated surface (a). The structure of an individual EWNS (b) containing the AI, ROS and charges is also shown.

Generating nanodroplets

The primary process under the generation of EWNS is a combined electrospray ionization process in which aerosol nanodroplets are synthesized by a combination of electrospray and ionization of aqueous suspension antimicrobials.

In fact, several EWNS were synthesized using some active ingredients and their combinations. They were nano-sized and contained both antimicrobial agents and reactive oxygen species, which are essential for neutralization purposes.

The researchers then conducted the experiments using these mixtures to challenge one common human coronavirus 229E – which causes the common cold – as a surrogate of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces.

High efficacy and fast inactivation

The results of this study showed that EWNS, produced with a cocktail of hydrogen peroxide, lysozyme, citric acid, triethylene glycol and nisin, was able to inactivate 3.8 logs of human coronavirus 229E in just 30 seconds of treatment.

More specifically, EWNS nano-disinfectants generated with various substances were able to substantially inactivate the human coronavirus 229E on a surface by delivering only minuscule amounts of active ingredients. After five minutes of treatment, there were no significant differences for all five active ingredients assessed.

And among them, the aforementioned hydrogen peroxide produced the highest level of so-called biphasic inactivation, which has been seen in many previous studies of antimicrobial efficacy testing. In addition, compared to the baseline EWNS, the results were not significantly better after the addition of individual active ingredients.

A promising, non-toxic solution

In a nutshell, these results underline the efficacy of using EWNS technology as a nanocarrier to deliver a tiny dose while inactivating a common cold coronavirus, making this also an attractive solution against SARS-CoV-2.

“It is worth emphasizing that the active ingredients used and delivered using the EWNS nanocarrier platform are non-toxic and naturally sourced, and only minute amounts are delivered (nanogram levels),” emphasize study authors in this article published in the magazine Nanomaterials

However, there is also a need for additional research, as this has focused on inactivating viruses on the surface. Therefore, future studies should focus on the propensity of the EWNS nano-aerosol to interact with the virus suspended in the air to provide efficient inactivation.

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