In pandemics of highly infectious diseases (e.g., COVID-19), health care workers are at much higher risk of infection than the general population because of their direct contact with patients. In addition to body fluids and surface contamination from other infected patients, personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered a critical component that can be used to protect HCWs from droplets generated by coughing, sneezing, and aerosol generation processes. PPE may include medical masks, medical gowns,medical protective clothing, protective gloves, medical masks and protective eyewear, etc.
Due to unprecedented global demand, there is a severe depletion of safe and effective protective clothing needed to treat patients with COVID-19. In addition, in some cases, PPE standards are not yet of the quality required for medical use, thus increasing delays and waste. A recent survey by Nursing Times revealed that approximately 73% of National Health Service (NHS) nurses do not have long-sleeved disposable gowns, goggles and FFP3 respirators. In addition, due to the current crisis, approximately 63% do not have fluid-proof masks. In addition, PPEs need to be properly "donned" and "doffed" and can be uncomfortable.
Although there are many advisory publications from organizations and regulatory agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the UK's NHS, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all address the specifications and uses of PPE. Thus, there remains an unmet need for safer, more effective PPE for healthcare professionals worldwide, and a clear understanding and knowledge of the regulatory standards for such devices.
Medical textiles are used in the manufacture of PPE for healthcare or medical applications, particularly to mitigate the risk of exposure to hazardous substances (including body fluids) and to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
These nonwovens are usually made of polypropylene and usually have a spunbond-meltblown-spunbond (SMS) structure. In contrast, woven fabrics, usually made of cotton or polyester/cotton blends, are commonly used in the production of scrubs. It is important to provide protection for HCWs from infected patients' body fluids and other harmful substances, and specialized finishes can be applied to disposable or reusable medical textiles to provide protection. For example, fluid-repellent finishes can be used to form a barrier to prevent adsorbed fluids from penetrating the contact fabric.
Medical Protective Clothing
Viruses are small (~10-200 nm) infectious agents, which are typically 100 times smaller than typical bacteria, and can be used with electron microscopy. Viruses depend on the "host cells" of other living organisms to survive, reproduce and multiply, and cannot function or replicate outside the host cell itself.
Viral particles appear as "packages" of DNA or RNA genetic material contained in a protein coating, called a virosome. The virion usually consists of DNA or RNA genomic material that contains the genetic instructions for reproducing the virus and a protein shell called the capsid that surrounds and protects the DNA or RNA.
Some viruses also have a lipid-based external envelope and are referred to as enveloped viruses (H1N1, coronaviruses, etc.). The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has such a lipid envelope, which can be disrupted by using soap-like material. Other viruses without such an envelope are called naked viruses (e.g. rotavirus). Coronaviruses are usually between 60 and 140 nm in diameter and have spike-like surface projections that produce a "coronal appearance" under electron microscopy.