Author Interviews, Infections, Nature, Technology / 08.01.2017 Interview with: Hyo-Jick Choi, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering University of Alberta Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 1H9 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Respiratory diseases such as influenza transmitted either through breathing aerosols exhaled/coughed out by an infected person or through direct contact. Despite controversy over its efficacy, surgical mask has been widely used by general public during the past respiratory disease outbreaks because of low cost, easy wearability, and widespread use in normal day-to-day situation. Critical issue is that virus captured on the filter of the mask still maintains infectivity for long time, raising concerns of secondary infections and transmissions. This led us to develop a strain-nonspecific and reusable airborne virus deactivation system based on salt recrystallization principle. Salt recrystallization is hypothesized to cause deactivation of viruses transmitted through aerosols via two successive processes: 1) salt on filter fiber dissolves upon exposure to the pathogenic aerosols and 2) salt crystallizes as aerosols evaporate. To demonstrate the concept, we coated the fiber of the surgical mask filter with sodium chloride (NaCl) salt crystal and tested its performance using three different types of influenza viruses. Salt-treated filter provided higher filtration efficiency compared to non-treated regular filter and successfully destroyed multiple subtypes of influenza viruses trapped on the filter within few minutes, leading to significant infectivity loss. (more…)