Infections with respiratory viruses can spread via liquid droplets and aerosols, and cause diseases such as influenza and COVID-19. Face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) can act as barriers that prevent the spread of respiratory droplets containing these viruses. However, influenza A viruses and coronaviruses are stable for hours on various materials, which makes frequent and correct disposal of these PPE important. Metal ions embedded into PPE may inactivate respiratory viruses, but confounding factors such as absorption of viruses make measuring and optimizing the inactivation characteristics difficult. Here we used polyamide 6.6 (PA66) fibers that had zinc ions embedded during the polymerisation process and systematically investigated if these fibers can absorb and inactivate pandemic SARS-CoV-2 and influenza A virus H1N1. We find that these viruses are readily absorbed by PA66 fabrics and inactivated by zinc ions embedded into this fabric. The inactivation rate (pfu·gram-1·min-1) exceeds the number of active virus particles expelled by a cough and supports a wide range of viral loads. Moreover, we found that the zinc content and the virus inactivating property of the fabric remain stable over 50 standardized washes. Overall, these results provide new insight into the development of "pathogen-free" PPE and better protection against RNA virus spread.
Keywords: absorption; coronavirus; face mask; influenza; zinc.