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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Nov 02 16:42:03 EDT 2011

New material for air cleaner filters that captures flu viruses

With flu season just around the corner, scientists are reporting development of a new material for the fiber in face masks, air conditioning filters and air cleaning filters that captures influenza viruses before they can get into people’s eyes, noses and mouths and cause infection. The report on the fiber appears in ACS’ journal Biomacromolecules.

Xuebing Li, Peixing Wu and colleagues explain that in an average year, influenza kills almost 300,000 people and sickens millions more worldwide. The constant emergence of new strains of virus that shrug off vaccines and anti-influenza medications has led to an urgent need for new ways of battling this modern-day scourge. So Li, Wu and colleagues sought a new approach, using a substance termed chitosan made from ground shrimp shells.

The scientists combined chitosan with substances that the flu virus attaches to in order to infect cells. They found that this new version of chitosan ideal for attaching to fibers of face masks and air filters was highly effective in capturing flu virus. The material could become an important addition to vaccinations, anti-influenza medications, and other measures in battling flu, they suggest.

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