Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it also takes inspiration and some serious perspiration. As COVID-19 has proven to spread as fast and easily as a wildfire on the bosque, it is imperative that all precautions must be followed. Leave it to the enterprising scientists in the biology department at New Mexico Tech to find a solution to the growing shortage of hand sanitizers.
Research scientist Dr. Danielle Turner said an article on the internet about the importance of hand sanitizers got her thinking on how to make a difference.
“With the availability of commercial hand sanitizers at an all-time low, we started looking at protection,” Turner said. “It’s really important to minimize the spread of the virus. And so the easiest thing that we can do right here - and the fastest - is to make hand sanitizer.”
Using a recipe from the World Health Organization, Turner gave it a try in the biology lab in Jones Annex.
Using three ingredients - isopropyl alcohol, glycerol and hydrogen peroxide - in the right amounts, she had her first batch ready to use.
“We can produce a good hundred liters in a hurry if needed,” she said.
From a large laboratory bottle, the sanitizer is meted out into smaller, more convenient containers for personal use.
“All it takes is one teaspoon,” Turner said “Let your hands air dry. That’s when disinfection happens.”
Biology professor Dr. Snezna Rogelj explained that the virus COVID-19 is made up of genetic material encased in a lipid-like coating.
“The virus has a fatty-like protective layer, and detergent, soap or alcohol interact with that fatty layer and destroy it,” she said. “It makes the virus fall apart.”
Many viruses are like that, she said.
“And that’s why detergent and alcohol are used universally,” Turner said.
Rogelj said that her biology team is acutely aware of the current problems with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases because of the research they have been doing on their own into bacterial drug resistance.
Dubbed “World Health Organization Sanitizer,” Rogelj and Turner are planning to get it throughout the campus and possibly the Socorro community if resources permit.
“It’s a universal way to help minimize the spread; that is the one thing that is still under our control” Turner said.
“And wash your hands often!” they said in unison.