Shining a Deadly New Light on Airborne Flu Virus

From Drugs.com - February 12, 2018

Shining a Deadly New Light on Airborne Flu Virus

MONDAY, Feb. 12, 2018 -- As a particularly nasty flu season rages across the United States, scientists have found a powerful new disinfectant that makes "light" work of the virus.

Researchers say a certain spectrum of ultraviolet light -- called far-UVC -- easily kills airborne flu viruses while posing no risk to people.

It could offer a new, inexpensive way to eliminate airborne flu viruses in indoor public spaces such as hospitals, doctors' offices, schools, airports and aircraft, said the team from Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

The disinfecting success of initial experiments still need to be confirmed, said lead research David Brenner.

But he believes "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."

As the researchers explained, broad-spectrum UVC light kills viruses and bacteria, and it is currently used to decontaminate surgical equipment. But this type of light can cause skin cancer and cataracts, so it's not used in public spaces.

However, Brenner and his colleagues wondered if a much narrower spectrum of ultraviolet light, far-UVC, might be a safer option.

In prior studies, they found that far-UVC light killed methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) bacteria -- a common and dangerous "superbug" -- without harming human or mouse skin.

In this new study, they found that far-UVC light also killed airborne H1N1 virus, a common strain of flu virus.

"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," said Brenner, who directs Columbia's Center for Radiological Research.

However, "because viruses and bacteria are much smaller than human cells, far-UVC light can reach their DNA and kill them," he said in a university news release.


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