Coronavirus testing

As a result of the current pandemic, we are increasingly being asked by customers about whether BioCote® technology is effective against coronavirus.

As with previous testing, it is our duty of care to inform our customers what our technology can and cannot achieve, and as always this is based on proven data. Recently, BioCote® has worked closely with an independent laboratory to test our technology against a strain of feline coronavirus in order to provide our partners with continued confidence in the efficacy of our technology. As a result of this testing, BioCote® technology was proven effective with a reduction of 90% in 2 hours against feline coronavirus, strain Munich.

This blog provides information on our independent virus testing and what the results mean for BioCote® treated products.

What Is A Virus And How Is It Different To A Bacteria?

A virus is an infectious particle made up of a core of genetic material surrounded by a protective coat made up of proteins, known as a capsid. Some viruses also have a secondary spikey coat surrounding the capsid known as an envelope.

Viruses are known as obligate intracellular parasites as, unlike most bacteria, they can only replicate within a living host cell. They do not possess the capability to carry out metabolic processes and rely solely on the cell of the living host to form proteins and multiply. Due to this, they are defined as non-living entities, although this is still a controversial debate between scientists worldwide. The aim of any virus is to replicate and spread their genetic material to other living hosts.

Bacteria, on the other hand, are considered a living entity as, generally, they are capable of functioning independently of host cells and carrying out metabolic processes. Whilst many opportunistic bacteria thrive comfortably within the body of a mammal at 37°C, they are still capable of surviving in unfavourable conditions for long periods of time on inanimate surfaces.

What Is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of zoonotic viruses, meaning they can pass from animal or insect to humans upon mutation. They are so named after the Latin word “corona”, meaning “crown” or “halo” due to their microscopic appearance. This crown of proteins help the virus identify whether it can infect its host.

There are seven coronaviruses known to cause disease in humans, four of which are considered mild in their pathogenicity: viruses 229E, OC43, NL63 and HKU1. However, the remaining strains of coronavirus have the ability to cause more serious diseases in humans. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS-CoV-1) emerged in late 2002 with a record of 774 deaths, followed by MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS-CoV) in 2012. SARS-CoV-2 is the name given to the novel coronavirus identified in 2019 which is a new strain of coronavirus previously unidentified in humans. COVID-19 is the name given to the disease caused by the virus.

What Is The Difference Between Other Coronaviruses And SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)?

The difference lies with the mutation and the pathogenicity of the virus. As previously mentioned, whilst four of the currently known strains of coronavirus are considered mild in their pathogenicity to cause disease in humans, the other strains have required a genetic mutation which allows them to transfer not only from human to human transmission but with increased pathogenicity.

Scientists are still trying to fully unravel the molecular structure of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in order to produce a suitable vaccine. Whilst it is genetically related to the virus that caused the SARS (SARS-CoV-1) outbreak in 2002, they are different strains.

Although the novel coronavirus has not been definitively linked to a specific animal as yet, scientists believe that the virus may have been passed from bats or other animals such as pangolins or snakes and then transmitted to humans.

BioCote® Efficacy Testing Against A Feline Coronavirus Strain

Antiviral testing was performed via a third-party laboratory, using a BioCote® treated product against feline coronavirus, strain Munich. The feline coronavirus, strain Munich is a surrogate virus used in laboratories as a close but safer alternative to human pathogenic strains of coronavirus.

BioCote® has proven efficacy against feline coronavirus, strain Munich, with a reduction of 90% in 2 hours. However, this should not be used for claims against the novel virus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Whilst the result against feline coronavirus, strain Munich, clearly demonstrate the antiviral efficacy of BioCote® technology against a member of the coronavirus family, it cannot be known whether SARS-CoV-2 exhibits virulence properties which are not affected by silver without testing this strain. To confirm with certainty whether the virulence properties of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) are affected by BioCote® technology, the testing will need to be repeated on the actual SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) strain.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has categorised the virus at biohazard level 3 and above, meaning the SARS-CoV-2 virus will not currently be available for public commercial testing at this point in the pandemic.

The table below demonstrates the evolutionary relationship between the feline coronavirus, strain Munich and SARS-CoV-2:

Feline coronavirusSARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
RealmRiboviriaRiboviria
OrderNidoviralesNidovirales
FamilyCoronaviridaeCoronaviridae
GenusAlphacoronavirusBetacoronavirus
SpeciesAlphacoronavirus 1COVID-19

Whilst the two strains of coronavirus are within the same family, they separate at genus in to alphacoronavirus and betacoronavirus. The differences between the two genera are not entirely clear, however previous studies suggest that betacoronaviruses have low host-specificity and evolve by host-switching and recombination (cells infected by more than one virus potentially creating new strains). In contrast, alphacoronaviruses are thought to be more specific in their hosts.

Similarities Between The Strain Tested And SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19)

Feline coronavirus is in the same family, therefore shares almost identical structure and is very similar. The difference being that they begin to separate at the genus whereby it is suggested that SARS-CoV-2 has lower host specificity (targets more hosts such as humans, bats, pangolins and snakes) whereas the strain feline coronavirus has more host specificity (transmission in cats only). In other words, the difference between the two appears to be the cells that they adhere to (human cells and feline cells). However, at this moment in time we do not know enough about SARS-CoV-2 to know if there are more.

This may be the reason why domestic animals do not suffer the same symptoms from SARS-CoV-2 in the same way as humans. There has only been one report of a dog testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and that was from a swab taken from the external part of the nose, where the dog could have picked it up via sniffing low to the ground. The dog did not exhibit any clinical symptoms of the disease.

A study found that the SARS-CoV-2 strain of coronavirus has a few mutations that form a particularly compact ‘ridge’ in the spike protein.  This compact ridge may result in tighter binding to its human receptor through evolution and as a result, SARS-CoV-2 has become more efficient at infecting and causing disease in humans compared to its relative SARS-CoV-1 (SARS 2002-2003).

What Do The Results Mean For The Performance Of BioCote® Antimicrobial Technology

After testing to the BS ISO 21702:2019 standard, the polypropylene containing BioCote® technology was proven effective against feline coronavirus, strain Munich, with a reduction of 90% in 2 hours.

This should not be used for claims against the novel virus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). It demonstrates the antiviral efficacy of BioCote® technology against a strain of the coronavirus family, the feline coronavirus, strain Munich.

Further Protection For BioCote® Treated Products

For 25 years, BioCote® technology has been empirically proven to work against bacteria, mould, fungi and the influenza A H1N1 virus, for the expected lifetime of treated products.

With the recent successful independent viral testing, we can now prove that products treated with BioCote® technology are also effective against a virus of the coronavirus family: the feline coronavirus, strain Munich. The viral efficacy testing further demonstrates for our partners and customers, that the BioCote® additive portfolio delivers ultimate protection from a wide range of microbes including two virus strains. BioCote® antiviral testing data against feline coronavirus, strain Munich, should not be used as data for or proof of efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). For any clients wishing to know more about how to share this information in their marketing communications, please contact the BioCote® team for claims verification as otherwise claims cannot be supported in the market.

Our advice for businesses concerned about COVID-19 is to encourage and support regular cleaning regimes and a strong focus on hand hygiene. It is advisable to carry tissues to catch any coughs or sneezes and throw the tissues away once used. Prioritise washing hands thoroughly with soap and water but use hand sanitisers if you have no access to hand washing facilities. Read our blog on the correct hand washing routine.

Please always follow guidance given by relevant health authorities such as the NHS or WHO.

To find out more about our range of additives or if you are interested in protecting your own products with proven BioCote® antimicrobial technology, contact our team on +44 (0)2477 712 489 or on [email protected]. Alternatively, you can contact us via the form below. We look forward to hearing from you!

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