The Indian Institute of Technology or IIT in Delhi has developed an "infection-proof fabric" to be used at hospitals to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).
The development by "Fabiosys Innovations", a start-up incubated at IIT-Delhi, comes at a time when the world is dealing with the deadly coronavirus outbreak. However, the team has been working on the project for over a year with support from the government''s Department of Science and Technology.
According to official statistics from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, for every 100 hospitalised patients in developing countries, 10 acquire HAIs and the risk is even higher at the time of a coronavirus outbreak.
The team claims to have developed an affordable, novel textile-processing technology, which converts regular cotton fabric into infection-proof fabric.
"We take rolls of cotton fabric and treat it with a set of proprietary-developed chemicals under a set of particular reaction conditions, using the machinery already commonly available in textile industries. The fabric, after undergoing these processes, gains the powerful antimicrobial functionality," Samrat Mukhopadhyay, a professor at the Department of Textile and Fibre Engineering in IIT-Delhi, said.
"What is interesting about the Fabiosys'' fabric is that even after washing multiple times, it does not lose its functionality. This fabric can be stitched into various articles such as bedsheets, the uniforms for patients, doctors and nurses and even curtains. The fabric satisfies the Indian washing standards in terms of number of washing. It is also completely non-toxic and affordable," he added.
IIT has collaborated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for a pilot run of the product.
"While talking to a few patients at the AIIMS, we got to know that they became more sick after getting admitted there. When we started researching, we found that hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a grave problem, especially in developing countries like India, where the tropical climatic conditions are suitable for the growth of bacteria."
"I was surprised to see that many patients are not even aware about HAIs. People usually become aware of any cross-contamination when it has already taken the form of an outbreak or epidemic. The recent case of coronavirus is one such example," Yatee Gupta, a BTech graduate from the institute who is working on the innovation, said.
According to Ms Gupta, one of the major ways these infections spread is through contact from contaminated surfaces and a patient in a hospital is surrounded by a variety of fabric in the form of bedsheets, the uniforms for patients, doctors and nurses etc. and these textile surfaces actually become the breeding ground for pathogens, which do not get killed even while washing in hot water.
"We are currently in the process of conducting large-scale manufacturing trials in the Delhi-NCR region. We have collaborated with AIIMS, Delhi to pilot our products. We are also in early talks with some of the largest hospital chains in India for further pilots and strategic collaborations. We have been financially supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Human Resource Development, IIT Delhi and Department of Biotechnology in the form of grants and fellowships," Ms Gupta said.