Special UV Light Safely Kills Airborne Flu Virus
Flu viruses are becoming deadlier nowadays and seasonal influenza epidemics are wrecking havoc to communities. The quest to thwart the spread of flu viruses is an ongoing process. However, a special kind of UV light could be the best flu buster after all.
In a study conducted by researchers from the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), the use of far-UVC, a narrow spectrum of ultraviolet light, could kill microbes without damaging healthy tissue. Thus, the use of far-UVC light in hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools, airports, airplanes, and other public spaces could eradicate airborne viruses in these indoor public spaces.
This kind of is so unique that researchers could be a good option for a safer protection against the flu bug and stop the rapid spread of the microbes. Unlike the conventional UV light which was widely used to decontaminate surgical equipment and known to be a human health hazard, this new kind of UV light is not harmful to human tissues.
This key discovery was confirmed by study leader David J. Brenner, PhD, the Higgins Professor of Radiation Biophysics Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and director of the Center for Radiological Research at CUIMC.
Brenner said, “Far-UVC light has a very limited range and cannot penetrate through the outer dead-cell layer of human skin or the tear layer in the eye, so it’s not a human health hazard. But because viruses and bacteria are much smaller than human cells, far-UVC light can reach their DNA and kill them.”
The study was published online in Scientific Reports.
The Study and Key Results
The new study was designed to test if far-UVC light could efficiently kill aerosolized influenza virus in the air, in a setting similar to a public space.
In the study, aerosolized H1N1 virus-a common strain of flu virus-was released into a test chamber and exposed to very low doses of 222 nm far-UVC light. A control group of aerosolized virus was not exposed to the UVC light. The far-UVC light efficiently inactivated the flu viruses, with about the same efficiency as conventional germicidal UV light.
The results affirmed the researchers’ hypothesis that far-UVC light could kill microbes without damaging healthy tissue. The study demonstrated that far-UVC light was effective at killing MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus) bacteria, a common cause of surgical wound infections, but without harming human or mouse skin.
“If our results are confirmed in other settings, it follows that the use of overhead low-level far-UVC light in public locations would be a safe and efficient method for limiting the transmission and spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases, such as influenza and tuberculosis,” said Dr. Brenner.
As of now the costs of the UV lamp is $1,000. However, the researcher asserted that if mass produced, the cost will be cheaper and affordable.
Breener added, “And unlike flu vaccines, far-UVC is likely to be effective against all airborne microbes, even newly emerging strains.”
Flu is a respiratory infection caused by a number of viruses. The viruses pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth. It is highly contagious. In the US, between 5% and 20% of people get the flu each year. The flu can be serious or even deadly especially for elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses.