Grant will Support Work to Improve PPE for Healthcare Workers

Woman receives vaccination.
A new CDC grant will fund work to create improved face masks and other protective equipment for healthcare workers. (Wayne Tilcock/UC Davis)

A multidisciplinary team of researchers is working to improve the design, function and safety of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health care workers.

The team, led by Professor Guowen Song at Iowa State University and including Professor Gang Sun, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, received a $1.8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to support the work. Song said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in current PPE systems, which is why the team will focus on developing biological self-decontaminating fabrics to protect against live pathogens.

“We’re looking to the future of PPE and how to provide better protection,” Song said.

The project originated a few years ago in response to a call for proposals for making advanced protective clothing resistant to Ebola virus, Sun said. The newly funded proposal addresses broad issues of current face masks and respirators, including fit, comfort, protection, reuse and environmental issues, he said.

The UC Davis group will focus on antiviral fibers and polymers for use in face masks and respirators, including chlorine-refreshable materials and those with biocidal action induced by daylight.

The emphasis on self-decontaminating materials is critical, Song said, as pathogens such as COVID-19, Ebola and SARS can live on PPE and be transmitted through the air and on surfaces. The team, which also includes researchers at the University of Iowa and University of Cincinnati, will also work to improve the function, fit and comfort of existing PPE. The research has the potential to benefit other industries as well as consumers.

Media Resources

NSF – Muses Study: Environmentally Benign Medical Protective Textiles

Grant will support work to improve PPE for health care workers (Iowa State University news)

Angie Hunt is News Service Director at Iowa State University.  

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