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19 June, 2006 - 18:19 By Staff Reporter

Non-toxic bug-buster garners international attention

A new weapon in the battle against the cross-border spread of potentially deadly bugs such as Bird Flu, Legionella, MRSA and SARS has been developed by a small Suffolk company.A new weapon in the battle against the cross-border spread of potentially deadly bugs such as Bird Flu, Legionella, MRSA and SARS has been developed by a small Suffolk company.

Solutions Environmental Systems (SES) in Ipswich has launched a germ control system, initially for the mass transit market, adapting it from technology originally developed for the food industry.

Crucially, Bio-Shield is non-toxic to humans, environmentally-friendly and is much longer-lasting than competing technologies, according to the company.

Now the company is seeing a flood of international interest, with potential applications ranging from carpet shampoo to a potential replacement for chlorine in swimming pools.

While the system cannot prevent killer bacteria and viruses from crossing international borders, it can stop the spread of them among air, rail and coach passengers, for example. Aircraft in particular have a reputation as fertile breeding ground for germs.

SES’ products are suitable for use in air-conditioning systems, including filters and ducting in public transport applications like aircraft cabins, railway carriages, buses, cruise liners and hotels.

SES itself has undergone something of a transformation, starting out life as a supplier of interiors such as seats and carpets for planes, trains and buses. About 18 months ago, the company began to investigate more effective ways to clean the interiors it was selling, in response to calls from its customers.

SES says it evaluated a number of technologies before stumbling across the one on which Bio-Shield is based. The company has spent the intervening months honing the technology for its initial target markets and it recently launched its suite of Bio-Shield products including wipes, sprays and even soaps.

The firm says it had negotiated an exclusive worldwide license for the use of the underlying technology in its target markets.

The Chinese government has already tested one product to verify its effectiveness in preventing the spread of SARS and SES says it has signed up a host of customers in the UK mass transport market, including bus company Arriva.

SES has also set up a specialist division in the US to address the marine travel market, concentrating initially on the large luxury cruise lines.

Norovirus, the ‘mystery illness’ that struck down a large section of the Tottenham Hotspur squad ahead of an all-important game at the end of the last Premiership season has had a particularly damaging effect on a number of the biggest companies in the sector over recent years.

Bio-Shield has proven action against the virus and the company is currently working with the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to validate a cleansing programme specifically for the marine cruise market.

Managing director, Chris Debrick says that the company’s Bio-Shield technology offers a new approach to microbial control by combining microscopic cleaning with chemical control. This dual function renders organisms harmless and prevents microbes from establishing colonies or becoming resistant to Bio-Shields products.

Active chemicals are integrated into a polymer base, so that they cannot migrate from the surface, and lose contact with pathogens to reduce the product’s effectiveness. This compares favourably with conventional disinfectants, which stop killing bugs once they dry out. Several different biocides are attached to the polymer base and will act independently of each other, so a large number of different types of microbe can be controlled.

The concentration of chemicals in Bio-Shields products can be as low as two per cent of that of traditional disinfectants. This makes them safer, less aggressive and non-bleaching.

The applications for the technology are broad, but SES says it will concentrate on the marine and coach and bus markets in the near term, before targeting the larger aviation market in the future.

Non-core applications may be sub-licensed, as may be the case following a recent approach from Interflora.

A recent experiment by the company found that a bunch of flowers will survive over 10 times longer in an extremely dilute Bio-Shield solution as they do with the plant food currently supplied by flower delivery companies.

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