A study discovered that continuous low doses of ultraviolet light can kill airborne flu viruses without harming human tissues and may help prevent the spread of seasonal influenza. The study suggests that use of overhead far-UV light in hospitals, schools, and other public spaces could provide a powerful check on seasonal influenza pandemics.
Scientists discovered decades ago that broad-spectrum UV light having a wavelength of between 200 to 400 nanometers or nm, is highly effective at killing bacteria and viruses by destroying the molecular bonds that hold their DNA together.
Researchers had earlier conjectured that a narrow gamut of ultraviolet light called far-UVC kill microbes without destroying healthy tissue.
David J Brenner, a professor at Columbia University Irving Medical Center said, “Unfortunately, conventional germicidal UV light is also a human health hazard and can lead to skin cancer and cataracts, which prevents its use in public cases. 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 its human health hazard.”
“But because viruses and bacteria are much smaller than human cells. Far-UVC light can reach their DNA and kill them,” he added.
Influenza viruses are contagious and spread from person to person mostly through fine liquid droplets, or aerosols, that become airborne when people with a flu cough, talk or sneeze.
In the previous studies, researchers established that far-UVC light was successful in killing aerosolized influenza virus in the air, in a similar public space.
In the research, 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.
"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 Brenner.
"Far-UVC is likely to be effective against all airborne microbes, even newly emerging strains," he said.
The findings were published in online on Scientific Reports.
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