Special type of ultraviolet light could kill flu virus in public places

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The paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, noted: "This is because, due to its strong absorbance in biological materials, far-UVC light cannot penetrate even the outer (non-living) layers of human skin or eye; however, because bacteria and viruses are of micrometer or smaller dimensions, far-UVC can penetrate and inactivate them". "But since infections and microscopic organisms are substantially littler than human cells, far-UVC light can achieve their DNA and murder them", said Brenner, who is additionally a teacher of ecological wellbeing sciences at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health.

Currently, ultraviolet light is used to decontaminate surgical equipment, but the light isn't safe for human exposure.

"Lamentably, customary germicidal UV light is additionally a human wellbeing danger and can prompt skin growth and waterfalls, which keeps its utilization in broad daylight spaces", said ponder pioneer David J. Brenner, PhD, the Higgins Professor of Radiation Biophysics at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and executive of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia.

"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".

In early studies the team found that their far-UVC light was capable of killing the MRSA bacteria without harming human skin. A control group of aerosolized virus was not exposed to the UVC light.

Scientists have known for decades that broad-spectrum UVC light is very effective at killing bacteria and viruses by destroying the molecular bonds that hold their DNA together.

Scientists at the Columbia University Medical Center found that short pulses of far ultraviolet C light could be utilised as a means of preventing flu from spreading around offices or even public areas like train stations. In order to do so, they released aerosolized H1N1 virus (which is a strain of the flu) into a test chamber, where it was exposed to very low doses of the light. Unlike such a light, though, the far-UVC isn't risky to people. "Continuous very low dose-rate far-UVC light in indoor public locations is a promising, safe and cheap tool to reduce the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases".

While the lamps now retail at around $1,000 (£726) each, this would likely come down if they were more widely adopted and they have the benefit of working against all airborne viruses - unlike vaccines which are specific to each flu strain. This could allow the tool to be utilized in far more places than UV lights are now being employed, leading to potentially wide sweeping impacts toward diminishing the spread of many infectious diseases.

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