When Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx, thought of ‘worst case scenarios’ whilst developing his products, his mind went to whole cities where an outbreak of a waterborne pathogen would contaminate the water supply. He knew he needed to produce a disinfectant using a natural product with anti-microbial properties, one that wouldn’t harm what nature had provided. What he hadn’t expected was a global viral disaster such as we have faced moving through COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world – and not only in the short-term. Globally, everyone has to rethink their approaches to health, hygiene and safety. Once lockdown measures come to an end, we will be living in an entirely different place. Yes, this may be the end of the world as we know it, but there are many positives we can take from the situation. Working with one another and with nature, we can emerge from this with a more socially-minded and healthier society.
    Thankfully, the planet provides us with a wealth of natural resources that we can adapt to our advantage. And we can use them to combat diseases and viruses in the long-term. In the future, forward-thinking will be our closest ally. For those who question the ‘Natural’ element, the fact is that many harsh chemicals are not only terrible for the environment but also humans – compromising our immune systems.
    The natural I am talking about in our case is underpinned by 15 years of research and development, breaking the boundaries of biotechnology by using the humble lemon to produce a raw material for a disinfectant which kills 99.999 per cent of all bacteria species tested, while remaining earth-friendly. Fifteen years later, we’re on the verge of receiving our European registration for the active ingredient, the first South African company in this field to do so.

The Unexpected Virus
Looking at previous health scares in South Africa and around the world over the last number of years, these have mostly been bacterial. Just recently we had Listeriosis and, before that, we’ve had avian flu, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and other outbreaks which we’ve been prepared for.
    When people land up in hospital with a bacterial infection, they can handle it, whereas COVID-19 presents far greater challenges. We’ve all had to adjust our thinking, as we’re not dealing with bacteria here, but a virus which behaves in a very different fashion to anything we’ve seen before.
    Just taking the current situation with COVID-19 into account enforces our vision to have technologies for the modern era that work with modern problems. When new bacteria or viruses appear, it’s always in a superior form, so you can’t use old technology to deal with a superior challenge. It comes down to the efficacy of new chemical compounds, not the application.
    Also, resources are critical. We’ve always been prepared to go on-site should an outbreak of the highly contagious Legionella disease occur within the water system at a power plant. These protocols would need minor adjustments should we be called to go into a hospital to deal with COVID-19, but this is within our capability, particularly as we have all the necessary personal protective equipment as part of our standard operating procedures. These adjustments wouldn’t relate to the product, its application or the technology’s capacity but to the mental understanding that you’re not dealing with bacteria but a virus which behaves in a very different fashion. We would have to factor in the mental shift by which human behaviour has adapted to the contaminated environment and behave accordingly. Right now, it appears hospitals are coping with their own disinfection protocols, but when the infected numbers surpass the 9 000 mark, these services would be needed.

Caring for the Environment
It should be a global mandate to leave the world a better place by putting the fewest chemical compounds possible into the environment and to come up with natural extracts that are sustainable.
    Currently and for the foreseeable future, with all the lockdowns globally, many companies and countries are going to find it difficult to source the raw material they need for manufacturing. Nature holds the key to success and we need to maintain a healthy respect for our environment, working in partnership with the natural world.

Being Prepared – Will the world learn from this dreadful experience?
You only have to look at the abuse of animal farming, human concentrations in small spaces and lack of running water and sanitation to foresee such global pandemics. So that remains to be seen.
    The sad thing is that people forget quickly. Will governments prepare going forward? Sadly, probably not. But AC (after COVID-19) we are going to be looking at a very different world. A world where people have withdrawn into their homes and will emerge with very different world views and psyches.
    This will determine what the new world of work will look like. Hopefully, society will use this lockdown time to listen to the quiet and smell the clean air in their immediate environments and reframe the way they live their life and their responsibility to the planet going forward.

Burt Rodrigues

Biodx is a South African biotech company that, with technical support from the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) as well as financial support from TIA (Technology Innovation Agency) and IDC (Industrial Development Corporation), has spent the last 15 years researching and developing cutting edge natural antimicrobial and antiviral technologies. The antimicrobial and antiviral technologies are available locally and currently undergoing EU testing and verification to stringent EU NEN standards in the Netherlands. https://biodx.co/