As COVID-19 exemplifies, respiratory diseases transmitted through aerosols or droplets are global threats to public health, and respiratory protection measures are essential first lines of infection prevention and control. However, common face masks are single use and can cause cross-infection due to the accumulated infectious pathogens. We developed salt-based formulations to coat membrane fibers to fabricate antimicrobial filters. Here, we report a mechanistic study on salt-induced pathogen inactivation. The salt recrystallization following aerosol exposure was characterized over time on sodium chloride (NaCl), potassium sulfate (KSO), and potassium chloride (KCl) powders and coatings, which revealed that NaCl and KCl start to recrystallize within 5 min and KSO within 15 min. The inactivation kinetics observed for the H1N1 influenza virus and matched the salt recrystallization well, which was identified as the main destabilizing mechanism. Additionally, the salt-coated filters were prepared with different methods (with and without a vacuum process), which led to salt coatings with different morphologies for diverse applications. Finally, the salt-coated filters caused a loss of pathogen viability independent of transmission mode (aerosols or droplets), against both DI water and artificial saliva suspensions. Overall, these findings increase our understanding of the salt-recrystallization-based technology to develop highly versatile antimicrobial filters.
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