Face masks using copper alloy effective against Omicron variant | The Asahi Shimbun: Breaking News, Japan News and Analysis – 朝日新聞デジタル

Face masks jointly developed by a university and a company in Nara Prefecture that feature copper alloy render the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus inactive within minutes, its developers said.

The four-layered nonwoven masks were developed by Ryuichi Nakano, an associate professor at the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases of Nara Medical University in Kashihara, and Yamato Shinku-Kougyo Co., a coating processing firm for resin mold goods based in Kashiba.

Nakano, 46, started working to confirm the mask’s effects on the Omicron variant in late May.

He exposed strains of the Omicron variant to the copper alloy-coated nonwoven fabric to compare the results with those exposed to ordinary nonwoven cloth. Both strain groups were then added to cultured animal-derived cells.

Strains treated with the copper alloy saw the virus volume drop to one-millionth of the initial level in two minutes. A similar outcome emerged in a previous test using the Delta variant.

“The material will probably prove effective for influenza viruses as well as the BA.5 subvariant (of the Omicron variant),” Nakano said.

The nonwoven covering using the copper alloy, named Yamato Shinku Mask Premium, is manufactured and sold by Yamato Shinku-Kougyo. 

“People with metallic allergies should seek advice from their doctors although the product’s safety has been confirmed,” said Kazumi Iwamoto, 43, a senior managing director at Yamato Shinku-Kougyo.

The standard model of 95 mm by 175 mm coverings is available in a package of 30 masks for 3,120 yen ($22) after tax. 

Yamato Shinku-Kougyo on July 15 added a smaller version and a children’s edition of the mask that measure 95 millimeters by 145 mm and 85 mm by 125 mm, respectively.

The 30-unit sets for the small and child versions carry price tags of 2,700 yen and 2,550 yen, respectively, including tax.

Samples will be distributed for free to consumers who want to try them. For more details, visit the company’s website at (https://yamatoshinku.com/).

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