Face masks using copper alloy effective against Omicron variant

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

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

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

He exposed strains of the Omicron variant to the nonwoven fabric coated with copper alloy to compare the results with those exposed to the regular nonwoven fabric. The two groups of strains were then added to cells of animal origin in culture.

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

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

The non-woven cover using the copper alloy, named Yamato Shinku Mask Premium, is manufactured and sold by Yamato Shinku-Kougyo.

“People with metal allergies should seek advice from their doctor, although the safety of the product has been confirmed,” said Kazumi Iwamoto, 43, senior general manager of Yamato Shinku-Kougyo.

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

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

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

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

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