Germ-killing is being taken to a new level at some Edmonton Transit stations.
The Edmonton Transit Service has partnered with local biotechnology company Outbreaker Solutions on a pilot project that will see innovative germ-killing push plates installed on several doors at some transit centres and LRT stations.
The push plates are flat and made of highly compressed salt, which Outbreaker says is effective in killing the majority of germs, including viruses, bacteria and fungi, in just a few seconds.
“This is simply regular table salt, then we transform the properties by compressing it and it becomes this hard, smooth, ceramic-like surface — that’s really durable and versatile — that can be applied to commonly touched surfaces like touch plates and other similar fixtures,” Outbreaker Solutions co-founder Matt Hodgson said.
“Our company is all about trying to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens on commonly touched surfaces.”
Outbreaker said its patented technology — called antimicrobial compressed sodium chloride (CSC) — can inactivate the flu virus in just minutes.
In a paper publish on Jan. 8, the company “disclosed for the first time our 99.9 per cent reduction of bacteria on our CSC surface in just two minutes,” Hodgson explained.
“Typically, antimicrobial surfaces take several hours to get a reduction and ours occurs starting just after the first few seconds of contact with a pathogen on our surface.”
This is due to the salt crystals piercing the membrane walls of the germs, effectively neutralizing them.
The highly visible yellow touch plates were installed earlier this week on doors at the Bay/Enterprise Square LRT Station. The six-month pilot program will be rolled out in phases, with push plates being installed at nine other transit facilities over the next month.
The plates are safe — and encouraged — to be touched.
“We want people to come in contact with this,” Hodgson said. “We’re super excited to see this product finally hit reality and get out there into the real world.”
The ETS said the plates are one more way to enhance health and safety for transit riders and staff. Craig McKeown, director of LRT Operations and Maintenance, said the project comes at no cost to taxpayers.
“We’re allowing Outbreaker to utilize our public spaces and essentially attach their product to our doors to the benefit of our riders and our public, and to the benefit of Outbreaker, as they get the opportunity to trial and test and continue to use their products, see how well this works in a commercial, public setting,” McKeown said.
“So it’s really a win-win for both local innovation but also the transit ridership and our public. There’s no exchange of money.
“We’re incredibly happy that we’re able to support home-grown and innovative technology and Edmonton talent.”
Outbreaker’s research on the novel coronavirus
While the majority of Outbreaker’s research has focused on the CSC product’s ability to kill bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, C. difficile, CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), research is underway to study how effective it is in killing the novel coronavirus.
The company is working with the University of Alberta on a study that was announced last spring.
“We have a bit of evidence that salt kills viruses. There’s a paper that came out in 2017 that shows how salt inactivated the influenza virus, which is a very similarly structured virus to this novel coronavirus. But the research we have right now is ongoing at the University of Alberta looking at the actual novel strain of the coronavirus using clinical samples of SARS-COV 2,” Hodgson explained.
“Although we don’t have the final results on that, there’s good evidence to suggest that of course salt should inactivate this because it does that to similar viruses.”
Hodgson is hopeful the research will come out of the U of A in the next month or two.
The city’s partnership with Outbreaker could be extended beyond the six-month pilot if both parties agree to the extension, McKeown said.
The City of Edmonton said new antimicrobial seats will also be installed on nearly two thirds of the LRT fleet from late January until March. According to the city, the seats have an antimicrobial additive in the plastic that can reduce up to 99.9 per cent of microbes within two hours.
McKeown stressed that despite the new technology, transit riders should continue to follow COVID-19 health precautions, such as good hand hygiene and wearing a mask.