An image taken with a scanning electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. (Photo via AFP)
At a time when all eyes are on the race to develop an effective vaccine against Covid-19, a study in the US has shown that a form of ultraviolet (UV) radiation can effectively kill the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
Scientists say this form of UV radiation is safer to use around humans and that this finding may lead to a potent disinfection system for occupied public spaces including hospitals.
This study has been published in the American Journal of Infection Control. It offers first proof that Ultraviolet-C (UVC) light with a wavelength of 222 nanometeres (nm) effectively kills the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and it may not penetrate the human skin.
According to the researchers, that include experts from the Hiroshima University in Japan, previous studies involving 222 nm UVC, also known as Far-UVC, have so far only looked at its potency in eradicating seasonal coronaviruses that are structurally similar to the novel coronavirus, but not on SARS-CoV-2 itself.
Recent studies have shown that 222-nm UVC is less harmful than 254-nm UVC because far-UVC light has a very limited penetration depth in the skin or eyes, and it is also an efficient anti-microbial technology,” the study said.
In this study, the researchers spread a 100 microliter solution containing the coronavirus onto a nine-centimeter sterile polystyrene plate. Following this, they allowed it to dry in a biosafety cabinet at room temperature before placing the Far-UVC lamp 24 centimeters above the surface of the plates.
The research showed that 99.7 per cent of the SARS-CoV-2 viral culture was killed after a 30-second exposure to 222 nm UVC irradiation.
In the study, the researchers noted that at this wavelength of 222 nm, UVC cannot penetrate the outer, non-living layer of the human eye and skin.
As a result, scientists say, this form of UV radiation would not cause harm to the living cells beneath.
According to the researchers, this makes the light safer, but also an equally potent alternative to the more damaging 254 nm UVC germicidal lamps increasingly used in disinfecting healthcare facilities.
Since 254 nm UVC harms exposed human tissues, they said it can only be used to sanitise empty rooms.
But the 222 nm UVC can be a promising disinfection system for occupied public spaces including healthcare facilities where hospital-borne infections are a possibility, the scientists noted.
Citing the limitation of the study, the researchers said they only investigated the efficacy of 222 nm UVC in lab conditions.
“We did not evaluate this technology in a real-world setting, such as a surface counter-top,” the scientists noted.
They suggested further evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of 222 nm UVC irradiation in killing SARS-CoV-2 viruses in real-world surfaces.