Antimicrobial Answer to Avian Flu Pandemics


Delivering biocide encapsulated in micelles brings an effective and environmentally friendly solution

Avian influenza (AI) is a heavy financial burden on the poultry farming industry. In January 2016 alone, there were 450 alerts for avian flu outbreaks, with hotspots in Asia and West Africa, together with more isolated outbreaks reported in parts of Europe and the US, most recently in Indiana. AI represents a risk to food supply. It also poses potential threats to human health, as AI viruses have previously transmitted across species to humans.

Microbide Limited of Dublin, Ireland with offices in Evansville, Indiana, USA has released the results of a study demonstrating the potential of its micelle-encapsulated biocide agents, against two strains of avian flu, H5N1 and H9N2.

“During the latest studies of our key product, we found that our agents are very potent,” says Mary Skelly, CEO of Microbide. “Testing our micellar delivery system, containing a potent biocide, we have demonstrated that the product is safe and effective,” says Skelly. Using a patented process, associating aldehydes with surfactants allows micelles to self-assemble, associating the active substance with the micelle. “Contact with a surface, such as a coop or other hard surface releases the biocide,” adds Skelly.

Independent expert, Professor Paschalis Alexandridis of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo agrees that “the practice of formulating potentially harmful agents within micelles has well-established utility.” He adds: “It’s plausible to see how an active agent could be released from a micelle on contact with a surface.”

Study used a surrogate to mimic real life conditions

In a recent study Microbide tested their key product against two strains of avian flu in a classically-designed virucidal study, with a twist. It focused on the highly infectious H5N1 strain that has previously jumped into humans. The study also tested the lower pathogenic strain H9N2, which transfers to humans and pigs with pandemic potentials.

Microbide’s study results are robust. "We wanted to ensure that our products would work in the field, and not just the laboratory," says Skelly. "So we modified the standard virucidal protocol to set a high hurdle for the reduction of the viruses by adding the viruses directly to blood. Unlike other currently applied disinfectants, our agents remain highly potent, even in the presence of high blood load." According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines a good disinfectant is expected to work even in the presence of organic matter.

Test results speak for themselves (See infographics). "In the presence of blood, a dose of the Microbide agent at 0.03% exhibited a complete inactivation of virus on contact at 30 and 60 seconds," notes Dr. Steve Zhou, Director, Virology and Molecular Biology at Microbac Laboratories, Inc. Further testing is planned to compare the results with and without an organic load, and between different Microbide formulations.

Avian_flu_Credit Ella Mullins Flickr.jpg

Outbreak management

Prevention is, as always, better than cure. Although highly effective, one strategy for dealing with avian influenza outbreaks involves vaccination of the flocks. It represents a considerable and ongoing expense to farms without protecting against the known carriers -- migratory birds.

Rapid management and control of any outbreak is vital in preventing a large-scale epidemic. Currently, radical avian influenza “depopulation” management strategies are generally adopted, followed by cleansing and disinfection of the area to prevent the spread of the disease. In January 2016, AI was detected in Dubois County, Indiana, USA: 258,325 turkeys and 156,178 chickens were affected. Surveillance continues.

Many biological disinfectants are available, though the list of allowable agents is limited in most countries. Indeed, large-scale application of any agent in the environment is of concern. Microbide believes that due to its biodegradable formulation, their product has reduced environmental impact.

Unlike many currently applied disinfectants, Microbide’s product is not caustic. This means that it does not present a risk to equipment, farm workers, or the animals themselves. It also breaks down readily in the environment into water and carbon dioxide. “Even in the conservative context of our recent study,” notes Skelly, “our product is highly effective.” It could thus change the current ‘cull and clean’ approach to handling outbreaks by maintaining a highly effective level of infection control and prevention with enhanced safety.

Study details are available upon request by contacting:


CDC Guidelines for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008

Avian flu alerts:!d=68,283,289,292,287,271

Suggested photo credit: Ella Mullins (CC BY 2.0)

Miriam Murphy