Tests have confirmed that two hand sanitizer formulations recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) inactivate the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19). More encouragingly, the tests also provided reassurance that store-bought sanitizers combat the virus. In India, we had recently reported that the Department of Science & Technology (DST), has funded a Pune-based company for manufacturing natural, alcohol-free sanitizer for hands and surfaces with long-lasting antibacterial and antiviral effect. Here, we talk with the founder-director of that company, Green Pyramid Biotech, Dr Asmita Prabhune. An alumnus of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) – National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, Dr Prabhune is responsible for providing technical, scientific and developmental insights to the company.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are included in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines — thereby not only marking the category safe but also effective. Why then did your company feel the need for a ‘natural, alcohol-free’ sanitizer, and how does it compare, both in terms of the chemical constitution and consumer consumption, with the WHO-certified alcohol-based ones?
Dr Prabhune: The sanitizer formulation of our eco-friendly product, whose Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) is a bio-surfactant that provides long-lasting protection against bacteria and viruses, can be an alternative to significantly reduce the risk of infection.
It has been tested against a wide array of pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and yeast.
The formulation can provide a convenient and effective way to clean hands and surfaces and is totally biodegradable, natural, and alcohol-free.
In addition to sanitization, the API has a unique property of supporting fibroblast activity. Hence it can be used to clean the wounds and prevents dryness and skin irritation.
Besides, this product whose technology concept and applications have been formulated is harmless to the skin.
Are the applications and the “dos and don’ts” of the two categories (alcohol-based
and natural) different?
Dr Prabhune: They are not different, applications are the same as that of alcohol-based sanitizers.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. What is your take on that; and, in the light of that, how do you explain the consumers the efficacy of your product?
Dr Prabhune: Our product does not contain alcohol but an API that has the same efficacy as that of an alcohol-based sanitizer. The product is safe and will not have any side effects on human beings.
Alcohol-based sanitizers after application are easily evaporated and require repeated application, whereas our product will give longer protection and without any adverse effects.
It is safe and not toxic even if accidentally inhaled or ingested.
A couple of quick questions about the ‘natural, alcohol-free’ sanitizers: Do they have an expiry date? How and where should they be stored? What if a child ingests hand sanitizer? And, lastly, can hand sanitizers be used if there are any cuts or rashes on hands?
Dr Prabhune: Our natural, alcohol-free sanitizer has an expiry date of 18 months from the date of manufacture. The product does not require refrigeration and can be stored at room temperature. As it does not contain alcohol, it is not flammable or gets evaporated.
Since our product is natural and alcohol-free, it is not poisonous even if a child ingests our product accidentally.
It will not cause any harm to the child. In addition to sanitization, the API in our product has a unique property of supporting fibroblast activity and can be safely used to clean wounds or cuts or rashes on the hands (Patented).
Apart from a few pockets in the top metropolitan cities, using hand sanitizers is still pretty much a ‘western concept’ for Indians. Do you see that changing rapidly due to COVID-19? How does your company propose to increase the user base?
Dr Prabhune: Our product can be used as hand sanitizer or also can be used as a hand wash. It is very safe for children, adults, and the elderly population as the pH is skin-friendly and contains all-natural ingredients.
What are your expectations from the government and the healthcare sector in India with regards ‘natural, alcohol-free’ sanitizers in particular and sanitizing products, procedures and process in general?
Dr Prabhune: We expect that the formal procedures and processes should be cleared quickly so that the product will be available to the consumers as early as possible.