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Lewes business touts COVID-killing disinfection

Shannon McNaught * Delaware
shannon.marvel@doverpost.com
Milford Beacon

A novel face mask decontamination method is emerging that could help protect healthcare workers and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Recent science has found that 35% hydrogen peroxide vapor and gas plasma likely deactivates SARS-CoV-2.

However, a Lewes company is offering a decontamination method with 7% hydrogen peroxide aerosolized mist, which company owners say is just as effective and less dangerous.

Pathogend Mid-Atlantic Disinfection Services is owned by Richard Mullen and John Eklund.

Pathogend utilizes a CURIS hydrogen peroxide-based fogger, which disinfects all surfaces air touches without spraying or wiping. Their proprietary 7% hydrogen peroxide mix eliminates hard-to-kill germs like C. diff, MRSA, flu, viruses, mold and more, according to the product’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency label.

“This special blend attacks pathogens by releasing the extra oxygen molecule and creating free radicals that oxidize the organism from the outside in. This killing action makes it very difficult for pathogens to build up resistance, eliminating future pathogen resistance and leaving no harmful residues,” the Pathogend website states.

Pathogend sells the foggers and provides one-time professional fogging services. Cost depends on room volume, and is about the same or less than other types of decontamination services. Mullen and Eklund have offered free or discounted services to Delaware healthcare systems.

The time it takes to decontaminate a space depends on size, but according to Mullen, it’s a matter of hours.

Killing the virus

The COVID-19 pandemic has motivated healthcare systems to take dramatic steps to preserve personal protective equipment, such as reusing N95 face masks designed for one-time use.

Healthcare workers wear N95 respirators, or masks, to protect themselves and patients from transferring pathogens. According to the CDC, the most significant risk of N95 mask reuse is “contact transmission from touching the surface of the contaminated respirator.”

Now, healthcare systems and scientists nationwide are scrambling to find a way to disinfect the masks.

In the healthcare world, “logs,” short for logarithms, are used to measure how effective a method is at eliminating pathogens. The higher the log level, the more pathogens are eliminated. In other words, the higher the log level, the better.

A 1-log kill reduces pathogens by 90%. Two- to 5-log kills reduce pathogens by between 99 and 99.999%. A 6-log kill, which is what Pathogend provides, reduces pathogens by 99.9999% percent.

“Nobody’s ever going to claim 100%,” said Mullen. “Log-6 is as close as we can get to achieving perfection, really.”

A 6-log kill rate what it takes to kill the antibiotic-resistant C. diff. According to Bridget Collins, COVID-19 is a log-3 or log-4 kill. She is the owner of Pathogo, a national distributor of CURIS foggers.

“Killing COVID-19 is not hard to do at all,” she said. “We’re killing at a much higher level.”

Supporting science

In March, Duke University released the results of a study that tested decontamination and reuse of N95 respirators with a 35% hydrogen peroxide solution.

“While previous studies have shown the applicability of the hydrogen peroxide vapor process, we have also confirmed that the respirator still functions as designed, using our standardized human N95 fit testing methodology,” the study states.

Duke University is now using hydrogen peroxide decontamination in all three of its hospitals.

N95DECON is a volunteer collective of scientists, engineers, clinicians, and students from universities, and private professionals, from across the country. The group formed over the past few weeks to review, collate, publish and disseminate scientific information about N95 decontamination in the face of the coronavirus.

According to their website, “N95DECON is not sponsored by any group nor does it represent the interests of any private/public organization or any specific technology.”

N95DECON has compiled available information on hydrogen peroxide vapor and gas plasma and concluded that, properly implemented, it is likely that they inactivate coronavirus. “Likely” is used because the virus is so new, it wasn’t available for testing. The information N95DECON gathered related mostly to the use of 35% hydrogen peroxide solutions.

The hydrogen peroxide solution used by Pathogend differs from those used by Duke and mentioned by N95DECON in that it is 7% hydrogen peroxide in aerosol form. The product is less corrosive and takes less time to aerate after use. However, the specific chemical combination and implementation strategy has not yet been evaluated by a peer-reviewed study.

“The 35% solutions, they’re the old tech, the Model-T. The 7% is the Corvette,” said Eklund.

In Delaware, only ChristianaCare has bought a Pathogo fogger. Hospital officials did not respond by the print deadline when asked whether they are using it.

Collins said a handful of hospitals in the northeast are.