Project Lead(s): Varol Intasanta
The risk that Mycobacterium tuberculosis can be transmitted from patients with active tuberculosis (TB) to other patients and healthcare workers has been recognized for many years.
The level of risk varies by setting, occupation, patient population and effectiveness of TB infection control measures, but is higher in facilities that manage large numbers of TB patients who do not receive rapid diagnosis, isolation and treatment, particularly in the absence of other infection-control measures.
Use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can reduce the spread of TB, but these are usually not available in most low-resource settings.
The objective of the project was to develop an antibacterial nanofibrous membrane for use as a filter, to physically, chemically and biologically prevent the spread of TB infection.
Electro spinning and nanospider technology were employed to generate hierarchical and multi-component antibacterial nanofibers. The interwoven networks of nanofibers form an ultrafine physical barrier that can block nano- to micro-sized TB bacteria. Inclusion of an antibacterial agent in such structures can lead to effective microbial elimination.
Nanofibrous filters were fabricated from these highly porous and nanofibrous membranes, and a field trial of the filter for airborne TB filtration was performed in a clinical environment.
A filter machine with the nanomembrane was put in a mucous collection booth, where patients suspected of carrying TB had samples collected and analyzed.
Tests showed that the membranes could filter M. smegmatis mc2 155 suspended in buffer solutions, demonstrating their potent antibacterial properties.
They also suggested that the pores formed from intermingled nanofibers were small enough to trap bacteria in a liquid flow-through model.
Moreover, this unique method of incorporating functional nanomaterials and additives facilitated other nanomembrane properties: water repellency, UV resistance and enhanced mechanical strength.
Subsequent studies showed that the nanomembrane could effectively block the passage of the M. tuberculosis H37Ra, a virulent TB strain, in aerosol, while allowing clean air to circulate.
Information about the project was disseminated at conferences and the team intends to apply for Transition To Scale funding (TTS).