An Indian American professor has developed the technology behind the Nanolife Disinfectant Tunnel, which successfully uses silver nano-particles to kill off viral infections.

Kattesh Katti, professor of radiology and director of the Institute of Green Nanotechnology at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., told India-West the technology has been tested successfully on COVID-related viruses. Currently, the 8-foot-long tunnel has been deployed at three locations in Chennai, including the Tirumala Tirupati Temple, where thousands of devotees worship each day.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has placed an order for more tunnels, according to Katti, which are distributed in India through the company Nanolife.

Katti discovered the effectiveness of silver nano-particles in killing off viruses 20 years ago, and commercialized the technology via a hand sanitizer that uses no alcohol or chemicals. The technology was also being used as a cleaning agent in Indian hospitals, he said.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit; Katti and the team at Nanolife re-purposed their technology to address the global crisis, which has killed more than 214,000 people around the world, and infected more than three million people.

India, currently on a nationwide quarantine ordered by Modi in March, has a relatively low rate of infection and death from COVID-19: the country had reported 937 deaths and approximately 30,000 infections as of April 28.

But the country’s overcrowded conditions — which make required social distancing difficult — could drastically raise the number of deaths from the virus, predict Indian epidemiologists.

“A country like India really needs more resources,” Katti told India-West. “The very high population density makes the pandemic significantly more dangerous,” he said.

Unlike other disinfecting tunnels currently used in India and some other countries, Nanolife’s disinfectant tunnel uses no harmful chemicals, which could be toxic. The technology is based simply on silver nano-particles, water and a proprietary herb that keeps the particles intact, said Katti, adding that the product is used in very low concentrations in the tunnels.

Prof. Jagat Ram of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, and Prof. JS Thakur, chairman, Covid-19 Prevention Committee at PGI, have questioned the efficacy of disinfecting tunnels, stating that they provide people with a false sense of security. But the tunnels to which they were referring to use sodium hypochlorite, which is known to have several serious side effects. Nanolife’s tunnels have no side effects, according to Katti.

The Government of India has banned the export of COVID-related technology, citing the huge need within the country for such products. Thus, for the moment, the Nanolife Disinfectant Tunnel is limited to deployment in India, but Katti is aiming to eventually bring the device to the U.S.

The Dharwad native said he envisions the Nanolife Disinfectant Tunnel in front of railway stations, airports, office buildings, and other large gathering places. Demand far outweighs production capability at the moment, he told India-West.

According to his bio, green nanotechnology is at the focal point of Katti's approach to pursuing research in nanotechnology and molecular medicine as he strongly believes in the total elimination of toxic chemicals in the production of engineered nanoparticles.

He uses phytochemicals occurring naturally within plants and herbs for nano constructs in a variety of applications.

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