Invention by young Jamaican seen as possible weapon in fight against COVID-19


Patricia Duncan-Sutherland (second left), chairman, JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation, presents a cheque from the JMMB Trust Fund to Rayvon Stewart while (from left) Professor Paul Golding, dean, College of Business and Management, UTech, Jamaica; Donna Duncan-Scott, group executive director, culture and human development, JMMB Group; and Nigel Cooper, head of the Joan Duncan School of Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Leadership, UTech, look on.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland has pointed to an invention by a young Jamaican as a possible key weapon in the fight to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

In an opinion piece released recently, Sutherland noted that with the outbreak of the lethal bacteria Klebsiella, in Jamaica five years ago, University of Technology, Jamaica student Rayvon Stewart set about finding a way to curb the spread of harmful germs.

“I made a determined decision that I was going to find a solution to limit the transfer of pathogens to multiple surfaces, thereby saving lives,” Scotland quoted Stewart as saying at the time.

Klebsiella, like the COVID-19, is spread from person-to-person or via contaminated surfaces. It can be killed by hand-washing with warm soapy water.

“I met Rayvon at the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in Geneva last year. He was among the finalists shortlisted for last year’s Commonwealth Health Innovation Awards.

“He took part in an exhibition on the theme ‘Universal Health Coverage: Reaching the unreached, ensuring that no-one is left behind’ which highlighted how young people are tackling age-old challenges with modern technology and disruptive thinking.

 “The event underlined Commonwealth commitment to empowering young people as outlined in our charter and also our contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Scotland.

She noted that in Rayvon’s case, he focused on the most common places where bacteria and viruses could easily be left by one person and picked up directly by another.

He came up with what he calls ‘Xermosol’- a simple-to-install device that automatically disinfects door knobs and handles after each use.

The innovation uses ultraviolet light to target and specifically kill harmful microorganisms, while being harmless to human beings.

“The potential impact of Rayvon’s invention could now be even more important than when he first conceived it, as the world battles the frightening COVID-19 pandemic.

“The coronavirus lives up to two or three days on stainless steel and metal, and several hours on fabric depending on factors such as temperature and humidity,” added Scotland.

The Secretary General also noted that field and laboratory testing has validated Xermosol’s efficiency in killing more than 99.9 per cent of deadly pathogens.

“In addition to health facilities, Rayvon hopes it could help reduce transmission of germs in other public spaces such as schools and businesses.

“Tests carried out in conjunction with University of Technology, Jamaica and University of the West Indies show Xermosol destroys organisms such as MRSA and E-coli and destroys viral cells such as influenza virus H1N1.

“This is a huge step in the fight against microorganisms and offers new ways of thinking around combatting viral cells such as coronavirus,” declared Sutherland.

According to the Secretary General, Rayvon has said the recognition he received from the Commonwealth Health Innovation Awards was a key moment in Xermosol’s progress, generating immense interest in the project.

“But now the production of Xermosol faces a number of considerable challenges – from development funding to finding a manufacturer to mass produce.

 “Financing options are mostly focused on large-scale innovation, but the Commonwealth is exploring and proposing that all 54 member-countries go into partnership with the Global Innovation Fund to help young innovators like Rayvon,” said Scotland.

Over the past two years, the Commonwealth Youth Health Network has worked closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat and member states to leverage the unique capabilities of young people and drive forward progress toward SDG3 (which includes a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis).