Bioguard: A Discreet and Safe Asset Against Future Pandemics

Bioguard A Discreet and Safe Asset Against Future Pandemics

Early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, it was alleged that banknotes could be unwitting transmitters of pathogens accelerating the spread of the virus. It was subsequently proven that the risk of transmission via banknotes is extremely low, though it remains a possibility. Solutions exist, however, that can safeguard against this residual risk. Oberthur Fiduciaire’s pre-existing Bioguard solution might just be one innovation that can allay any lasting concerns and provide protection against future pandemics…

A fortuitous consequence of the pandemic was a global acceleration in anti-viral innovation and a commitment across all sectors to make sure that the global community is better prepared to deal with any future health crisis. Of course, such programs were underway well before the arrival of Covid-19 in February 2020. The need for anti-viral innovation was neatly summed up by Dr Michael Ryan in his remarks at the launch of the World Health Organization (WHO) Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in September 2021: ”we must innovate and develop global solutions/goods and share them locally but crucially we must also build local systems and connect them globally in an unbreakable chain of health protection for all the people who inhabit this fragile planet.” In short, expert actors in the field must develop their solutions and make them available across a global, communal network.

Since 2020, experts have been regularly warning that pandemics may become the norm, so worldwide preparation is crucial. Oberthur Fiduciaire, a French specialist in banknote security printing, is one firm that has come to the fore in this sense. It has developed tried and tested a solution that can make a real contribution to the global efforts at reinforcing health protection and containing the spread of dangerous pathogens which can result in global health crises. Its name is Bioguard.

Bioguard: the invisible shield

Bioguard is an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal technology that was developed years before the pandemic. Launched in 2004 as an additive to the substrate with new anti-bacterial properties designed to slow the ageing of banknotes, it has since been constantly tweaked and updated in response to evolving trends. In 2010, for example, it was modified to include an anti-viral compound that greatly reduced the risks of the transmission of common viral infections such as influenza via the banknote surfaces. It can also be applied as a post-print varnish, and is a proven solution that has already been applied to over 10 billion banknotes in circulation around the world.

When the pandemic erupted in early 2020, Oberthur Fiduciaire decided to carry out tests on its Bioguard solution to see if its anti-viral properties were effective against Covid-19. They confirmed its efficiency against OC43, the strain of coronavirus that effects humans, reducing the viral concentration by a factor over 100. Bioguard paper treatment on unvarnished notes improved performance 160 times compared to standard paper, while Bioguard varnish improved performance 16 times compared to industry standard varnishes. “To put these performances in perspective,” noted Etienne Couëlle, Oberthur Fiduciaires General Manager, “In France, 3-shot vaccination only reduces ICU risk 7.5 times vs. no vaccination at all [] There is essentially a 0% chance of finding active viruses on a Bioguard-treated banknote – a probability you dont get with a credit card for example []  This newfound success of our treatment against a virus that has caused so much human and economic devastation has not gone unnoticed by central banks []” he continued.

Bioguard, future protection

It remains important to remember that a significant presence of a pathogen on a banknote’s surface may be a real threat to anyone that comes in contact with it. This is why Bioguard is so useful: it is safe for both human beings and the environment, and efficient for the duration of a banknote’s lifespan.  Bioguard is an invisible shield against a multitude of menacing pathogens, providing extra protection to banknotes and people who handle them. Its invisibility means it does not affect aesthetics or security features and can be added to notes at any time. “In light of scientific evidence it would be highly presumptuous and risky for our industry to claim that we do not need to do anything to make our banknotes safer,” said Etienne Couëlle. “Hopefully this pandemic is behind us. However, every year, we get influenza and cough spikes, while infectious bacteria are permanently present. We all know that a new pandemic will come at some point. So let us be prepared for the next one. We have time to do so if we don’t delay action too much.”

For now, time seems to be on our side. The Bioguard solution is trusted by many central banks around world, as far afield as the pacific island of Fiji. and has a real role to play in the prevention of the spread of future pandemics thanks to its anti-viral properties. Oberthur Fiduciaire has itself offered the products to numerous other central banks and printworks regardless of their manufacturing processes in the hope providing full protection across the board.

Indeed, the World Health Organization has used a short horizon of 3-5 years to prepare for the next pandemic and will be able to leverage the know-how and expertise of firm’s like Oberthur Fiduciaire, whose tried and tested solutions will be a crucial weapon in our protection of humanity moving forward.


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