The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed all of our lives for the short term—and perhaps even in the long term. The most immediate concerns center around isolating those infected to minimize the spread, finding remedies for those who are infected, and finding a vaccine to prevent the disease from its continued journey through the global population. I recently had an opportunity to interview John Beadle, President of Associated Printing Production, Inc (APPi) about his research and collaboration with Biomaster in the UK on developing a treatment for printed materials to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In this interview, we discussed his approach using Biomaster® antimicrobial additives. 

A Possible Solution?

First of all, let’s clarify the purpose and function of a paper treatment solution. This anti-microbial coating is not a remedy, or a vaccine designed as a treatment for humans to prevent COVID-19, it is designed to prevent cross contamination and inhibit the spread of the virus through the passing of printed materials. One possible solution is the use of the anti-microbial component created by Biomaster, a company founded in the UK in 2000 to create silver-based antimicrobial additives for the manufacturing of plastics, fabrics, and other materials.

The core component is silver, which has been used for thousands of years to prevent the growth of bacteria. The antimicrobial benefits of silver have been used in many medicinal and consumer applications over the last few decades alone, according to a recent article in the journal Antibiotics: “The healing and anti-disease properties of silver were used in late medieval France where entire hospital wards were plated with silver to help protect the patients from harmful bacteria. Babies were fed using a ‘silver spoon’ to avoid infection and illness, and even NASA used silver to purify water on the space shuttle.”

How Does this Antimicrobial Solution Work?

COVID-19 is an “enveloped virus” which has a protective lipid coating meant to help avoid the host’s immune system. According to Admaster Regulatory Affairs Manager Lesley Taylor, “These are the easiest types of virus to deactivate. Unlike many gastrointestinal viruses such as Norovirus which have a tough protein shell called a capsid enveloped virus, viruses with this lipid coating are relatively vulnerable and easy easier to destroy.” Unlike antibiotics, micro-organisms are unable to build up a resistance to the way in which silver ions disrupt their growth.

This Biomaster technology is also currently used by James Cropper in their PaperGard product, and they described how it works:

  • Silver ions bind to the cell wall of the micro-organism, preventing growth.
  • Silver ions interrupt enzyme production, stopping the microbe from producing energy.
  • Silver ions interrupt the cell’s DNA, preventing DNA replication and new cell formation.
  • This process does not allow the microorganisms to develop any resistance.


©James Cropper

But Has It Been Tested?

Under the current circumstances, no commercial lab has a suitable test environment or authority to test Biomaster against COVID-19. However, the previously tested feline coronavirus and COVID-19 are members of the same Coronaviridae family of viruses which cause a broad spectrum of animal and human disease. This group of viruses are enveloped and rely on a protective lipid coating as previously discussed and are amongst the easiest types of virus to deactivate. The testing against the feline coronavirus did clearly demonstrate the anti-viral efficacy of silver ion technology against a member of this same family. The latest testing with feline coronavirus, using the ISO 18184 testing method to determine anti-viral activity, shows James Cropper PaperGard papers were proven effective at reducing the viability of the viral strain by over 95% in only two hours.


There is no doubt that these are difficult times and we are all learning a lot each day about this new virus, how it survives, and how it can be tamed to allow us to go back to a more comfortable semblance of normalcy. Whether we are learning about the efficacy of different mask types or what a safe social distance is, we need to be open to finding new and different ways to help prevent the transmission of the virus. The testing of Biomaster against COVID-19 will occur at some point, but at this point the general science around it seems to present a compelling case for its efficacy and potential value.

Be Smart and Stay Safe….

More to Come…

drupa 2021 is coming, and I would like to address your interests and concerns in future articles as it relates to the manufacturing of Print, Packaging and Labels, and how, if at all, it drives future workflows including “Industry 4.0.” If you have any interesting examples of hybrid and bespoke manufacturing, I am very anxious to hear about them as well. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] with any questions, suggestions or examples of interesting applications.