U of G Research Aims to Safeguard Long-Term Care Against COVID-19

The hallway of a long-term care facility


A University of Guelph research project to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in long-term care homes has received a $50,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Alliance Grant.

Finding an effective way to disinfect and destroy the virus that causes COVID-19 will help prevent the disease in an area of the health care system that has experienced a high number of deaths, said U of G engineering professor Ed McBean.

The project is currently underway, with equipment and technologies being purchased. The study will test various disinfection protocols for COVID-19 in LTC facilities. A simulated LTC room will be constructed in a trailer, allowing the research team to undertake the various types of tests needed. Surrogate coronaviruses with similar properties to SARS-CoV-2 will be used.

“The issue is to understand the effectiveness of alternative types of disinfection of LTC rooms,” said McBean, who is working on the project with school of environmental science professor Prof. Marc Habash and Environmental and Power Solutions LTD, an engineering and research development consulting company.

“Once we’ve completed our research, we will be able to understand what disinfection approaches are sufficiently effective,” McBean added. “Thorough cleaning and effective disinfection will aid both residents and employees.”

Hamid Salsali is president of Waterloo-based Environmental and Power Solutions LTD. and has published numerous academic papers with McBean. Salsali said the company has an odour treatment system that has been on the market for a few years. It has sanitizing capacities that will be tested in the research project.

Prof. Ed McBean

“When the pandemic happened, and with all the issues taking place in long-term care facilities, we decided to see if our system could help the situation,” Salsali said. “I think that this research will lead to protocols that are beneficial in long-term care and other institutions.”

Salsali said if it proves effective, it will be provided on a non-profit basis for use during the pandemic.

McBean said an easy way to help combat the spread of the virus is to pay close attention to key touch points in LTC facilities – things like door handles, faucets, food trays, countertops, chairs, tables and light switches. But cleaning mattresses, curtains and under beds must also be considered.

“More thorough cleaning procedures are not limited to manual cleaning, but also include gaseous types, like advanced hydrogen peroxide technologies,” he added. “We want to understand how effective these alternative procedures are.”

The research team will test various applications of hydrogen peroxide, as well as Environmental and Power Solutions LTD’s Odomatic advanced oxidation technology effectiveness in the disinfection and removal of pathogens.

“We will be developing safe protocols for disinfecting LTCs, by testing to determine the conditions required for effective removal of pathogens on different material surfaces within an LTC room,” McBean added.

The results will be provided to government officials and LTC administrators to help in making informed decisions on LTC cleaning and in providing training to qualified personnel.

“The disinfection protocols will help during the current and future waves of COVID-19.”