Home News Could new UV technology fight the spread of the coronavirus?

Could new UV technology fight the spread of the coronavirus?

The researchers say that far-range UVC lighting could be used in hospitals, schools, airplanes, airports, and other transportation hubs - anywhere people gather. Photo: Columbia Center for Radiological Research

A technique that taps airborne viruses using a narrow wavelength band of UV light holds great promise in curbing the spread of COVID-19 from person to person in indoor public places.

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The technology developed by the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University uses lamps that emit continuous, low doses of a specific wavelength of ultraviolet light, known as far UVC, which can kill viruses and bacteria without affecting human skin, eyes, and other tissues damage. likewise the problem with conventional UV light.

Far-UVC light has the potential to be a game changer, said David Brenner, professor of radiation biophysics and director of the center. It is safe to use in occupied public spaces and kills airborne pathogens before we can breathe them.

The research team Experiments have shown that far-UVC is effective in eradicating two types of seasonal coronavirus in the air (those that cause coughs and colds). Researchers are now testing the light against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in collaboration with Thomas Briese and W. Ian Lipkin of the Center for Infection and Immunity in a biosafety laboratory on the Columbia Medical Center campus with encouraging results, Brenner said.

The team had previously found that the method was effective in inactivating the H1N1 influenza virus in the air as well as drug-resistant bacteria. And several long-term studies in animals and humans have confirmed that exposure to far-off UVC does not damage the skin or eyes.

'Our system is an inexpensive and safe solution for eliminating viruses in the air just minutes after they have been breathed, coughed or sneezed into the air.'

With widespread use in occupied public places, far-range UVC technology has the potential to effectively control future epidemics and pandemics, Brenner said. He added that even if researchers develop a vaccine against the virus that causes COVID, it won't protect against the next novel virus.

Our system is an inexpensive and safe way to get rid of viruses in the air minutes after you inhale, cough, or sneeze, Brenner said. Not only does it have the potential to prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading around the world, but also future novel viruses, as well as better known viruses such as influenza and measles.

Brenner envisions the use of safe, overhead long-range UVC lamps in a variety of indoor public spaces. The technology, which can easily be retrofitted in existing lights, could be used in hospitals and doctor's offices as well as in schools, emergency shelters, airports, airplanes and other transport hubs.

Scientists have known for decades that germicidal UV light (wavelength around 254 nm) can kill viruses and bacteria. Hospitals and laboratories often use germicidal UV light to sterilize unoccupied rooms and other equipment. However, conventional germicidal UV light cannot be used in the presence of people as it can cause health problems for the skin and eyes.

In contrast, far UVC light, which has a very short wavelength (in the range of about 205 to 230 nm), cannot reach or damage living human cells. But these wavelengths can still penetrate and kill very small viruses and bacteria floating in the air or on surfaces.

Far UVC lamps are now being manufactured by several companies, although the ramp-up to high-volume production will take several months. At $ 500 to $ 1000 a lamp, the lamps are relatively inexpensive, and once they are mass-produced, prices would likely fall, Brenner said.

Far-UVC is pursuing a fundamentally different tactic in the war against COVID-19, Brenner said. Most approaches focus on fighting the virus once it enters the body. Far-UVC is one of the very few approaches that has the potential to prevent viruses from spreading before they get into the body.

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1 What is ultraviolet (UV) light?

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of light that is similar to visible light, but with different wavelengths, making it invisible to the human eye. UV light is usually divided into three categories, UVA, UVB, and UVC, according to its wavelength.

two How does disinfection with ultraviolet light work?

UV light has been used to disinfect places such as hospital rooms and medical equipment for many years. UV disinfection uses UVC light, which can kill microbes such as viruses and bacteria by damaging their genetic material, DNA or RNA.

3 What is the difference between conventional UVC light and far UVC light?

Conventional UVC germicidal light typically has a wavelength of around 254 nanometers and is very efficient at killing viruses and bacteria. However, this type of UV light can penetrate our eyes and skin. So if people are directly exposed to conventional germicidal UV light over a long period of time, eye damage and possibly skin damage can result. As a result, conventional UVC light cannot be used where people could be directly exposed to UV light.

Far UVC light has a shorter wavelength, typically around 222 nanometers. Far-UVC light is also efficient in killing viruses and bacteria, but all of the evidence available shows that it is potentially safe for humans. This means that UVC lights shining from above could potentially be used to kill airborne viruses - including coronaviruses - in public places and in the presence of people.

4 How do we know that far UVC light kills human coronaviruses, and specifically the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

Columbia scientists were the first to show that far UV light efficiently kills human coronaviruses:

In recent ongoing studies, Columbia scientists have clearly shown that far UVC light efficiently kills the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. These ongoing studies have not yet been published.

5 How do we know that far UVC light is safe?

Far-UVC light can only penetrate biological material for very short distances. It cannot penetrate the layer of dead cells on the surface of our skin or the layer of tears that cover the surface of our eyes, so it cannot reach any living cells in the human body.

A number of different research groups, including at Columbia University, have conducted extensive safety studies with far UVC light and human skin, mouse skin, and mouse eyes, and all evidence suggests that far UVC light has no harmful effects. Examples are:

Columbia Studies of Far-UVC Safety in Human and Mouse Skin:

Japanese studies of far-UVC safety in mice:

UK study on far-UVC safety in human skin:

6 Are there regulations for the safe handling of UV and far UVC light?

National and international safety regulations limit how much UV light can be used in public places. These UV limits, set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, have been in place for more than 20 years. Far-UVC lamps must comply with these existing safety regulations.

7 How and where do you expect far-UVC light to be used in the future?

As the COVID-19 crisis slowly subsides, there will be many situations where people will move closer together indoors: hospitals, buses, planes, trains, train stations, schools, restaurants, offices, theaters, gyms - to name a few . In all of these situations, it would be beneficial to have wide UVC lights that continuously kill microbes, including the COVID-19 virus - thus limiting the spread of the virus from one person to another.

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8 Can far UVC light prevent the spread of other viruses like influenza and measles?

Yes, in addition to COVID-19, far UVC light is expected to be effective in reducing the spread of all viruses, including influenza, measles, as well as the next potential pandemic virus.

9 Are far UVC lamps currently available? Can you recommend a manufacturer?

There are several manufacturers of far-range UVC lamps and their mounts and they are rapidly expanding their capacities. However, Columbia University cannot recommend any specific brands or manufacturers.

10 Will far UVC light eliminate the need for social distancing, face masks, or hand washing?

All of these strategies will help reduce the spread of COVID-19, but none are completely effective on their own. Along with all of these existing techniques, far UVC light has the potential to be a new and powerful tool to contain the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

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