Microbiologists find coronavirus can remain on shoe leather for up to two days.
De Montfort University (DMU) and the British Footwear Association (BFA) tested samples of the most popular leather used in shoe-making with Micro-Fresh® treatment and without to see how long covid-19 survived on leather.
This included the following types of leather: calf, cow, goat and sheep finished as full grain, aniline, corrected grain, semi-aniline and nubuck/suede.
The team was led by DMU microbiologist Dr Katie Laird, Head of the Infectious Disease Research Group, and virologist Dr Maitreyi Shivkumar.
This study used a human coronavirus OC43, which the team has previously shown to have a similar survival pattern to that of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19
The independently funded study found that Covid-19 is able to survive on leather for 24 hours and that it was able to be transmitted to shoe boxes and surfaces during the manufacturing process.
The Micro-Fresh® treatment destroys the virus, taking the survival rate down from 24-48 hours to 2 hours.
There was also no transmission from the anti-viral coated leathers to other surfaces two hours after contamination of the leathers.
They looked at how the virus reacted with different types of shoe leather and cross-contamination to surfaces such as stainless steel (used in sewing machines) and cardboard, to assess transfer from shoes in a shoe box.
The traditional shoe-making process involves many different stages. Staff were concerned at the possibility of transmitting infection through handling, how long the virus could remain on the material and throughout the manufacturing process.
They also wanted to know how long it stayed on finished shoes when they were sent to the shops to give more confidence to shoppers wanting to try on shoes.
These findings mean that shoe manufacturers now have the information to alter their health and safety procedures knowing when transmission times are highest and can advise stockists on protecting the shoes in stores.
Further conversations were held between the university and the BFA, bringing in Professor Katie Laird, who had already begun examining how Covid-19 strains behaved on three fabrics commonly used in the healthcare industry and demonstrated they were able to survive for up to 72 hours.
They discovered traces could remain infectious for up to three days. Investigating the way in which the virus behaves on leather is an extension of that work. A research paper is currently under peer review ahead of publication.