UV Light May Help Fight the Spread of the Flu

Model and Property Released

A specially developed UV light could be used in offices and public places to kill the airborne flu virus.

Far-UVC has previously been demonstrated to be effective in killing off bacteria like the unsafe methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a superbug that has developed a resistance to antibiotics. "A direct approach to prevent airborne transmission is inactivation of airborne pathogens, and the airborne antimicrobial potential of UVC ultraviolet light has always been established; however, its widespread use in public settings is limited because conventional UVC light sources are both carcinogenic and cataractogenic".

"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 spaces", said David J. Brenner, lead author and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, in a press release published on the university's website.

"Far-UVC light has a very limited range and can not 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", said David J Brenner from the Columbia University Medical Centre in the US. Far-UVC light has significantly shorter wavelengths than its more commonly used cousin, which (according to the Columbia team) means it can penetrate and destroy microscopic entities like bacteria and viruses while leaving human skin and eyes unharmed.

The viruses were exposed in aerosolized form in the irradiation chamber to doses of 0, 0.8, 1.3 or 2.0 mJ/cm2 of 222-nm far-UVC light.

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However, the narrow spectrum of ultraviolet light called far-UVC retains this microbe-killing potential but without the ability to damage human tissue. The good news is that scientists may have discovered a simple and effective way to kill the flu virus, and the discovery could potentially have a dramatic impact on cutting the spread of the flu in the near future.

"Far-UVC light has a very limited range and can not 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", Brenner said in a press release.

The researchers noted that while the effectiveness of far-UVC light might vary depending on the microbe (for example, the level of viral inactivation might be different with other strains of flu), these variations are unlikely to be very large. The new investigation was meant to test if far-UVC light could proficiently execute aerosolized flu infection noticeable all around, in a setting like an open space.

At a price of less than $1,000 per lamp, investigators noted far-UVC lights are relatively low-cost.

Influenza spreads from person to person mainly through fine drops of liquid (aerosols) that float around after people cough, sneeze, or talk. The far-UVC light efficiently inactivated the flu viruses, with about the same efficiency as conventional germicidal UV light.

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