Treating coronavirus-infected laundry with a professional ozone washing system could have major implications for the future of infection control, according to new research.
The in-depth study carried out at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) found that the OTEX washing system, which uses ozone (a highly reactive gas) to kill bacteria even at low temperatures, completely removes all traces of coronavirus (OC43), a model virus for SARS-CoV-2.
The system, created by JLA (a leading supplier of commercial laundry equipment) was tested by a research team overseen by Dr Katie Laird, Reader in Microbiology and Head of the Infectious Disease Research Group, and expert virologist Dr Maitreyi Shivkumar, Lecturer in Molecular Biology. They found that cleaning with the OTEX technology completely removed the coronavirus, even in large washing loads. Additional testing also proved that the virus was not transferred to other textiles in the wash.
Believed to be one of the first studies of its kind, the research proves that coronavirus-infected laundry can be cleaned even at low temperatures, allowing heat-sensitive items such as personal clothing, hospital mattress covers, emergency rescue wear and microfibre items to be cleaned effectively.
Dr Laird and her team are now completing the next stage of their research, looking at the rate at which the virus is inactivated in the cleaning process to give more data on the length of time and quantities of ozone required for the virus to be eliminated.
Dr Laird said: “A key element of tackling the spread of COVID-19 is to understand how effective infection control can be implemented in real-world settings. There are a variety of situations in which textiles potentially carrying the virus need to be cleaned, such as care homes, hospitals and hotels.
“Until now we have had little data about how the virus responded to different types of cleaning. These initial results demonstrate that cleaning with ozone, as in the OTEX system, completely removes the model coronavirus.
“This held true even when treating larger loads of washing, as is likely to be the case in a real laundry setting. This result can give reassurance that such cleaning is effective.”
The implications of these findings for the healthcare and hospitality sectors are hugely significant in the fight against COVID-19 and the protection of both service users and staff. The financial and environmental benefits are equally as impressive. Research shows that over the average seven-year lifespan of a standard 30kg thermal disinfection cycle, using OTEX can reduce operating costs by over £130,000, while also reducing the businesses total carbon footprint by over 400 tonnes.
Helen Ashton, CEO of JLA, said: “I am really excited about the results of these tests as here at JLA we play our part in eradicating this terrible virus. We have been developing and refining the OTEX laundry system for over 15 years and its benefits to our customers are clear – full eradication of disease, including coronavirus, even at low temperatures and a significant reduction in operational cost coupled with a meaningful benefit to the environment.
“The system has been designed to be easy to use with real-time verification of the disinfection process on every wash which provides a unique audit trail of full compliance to regulatory standards.”
This is the latest accolade for JLA’s innovative OTEX system, having been previously recognised by the NHS Rapid Review Panel in 2009 set up by the government to fast track new technology to address hospital-acquired infections, achieving the highest grade (level 1) for infection control products.
More recently, the system met assessment of compliance with current Public Health England HTM01-04 guidelines for the decontamination of healthcare linen. The OTEX ozone system is also fully supported in line with the EU Biocidal Products Regulation.