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In world’s first study, Israeli researchers successfully prove that UV light kills COVID-19

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The UV-LED lights, which eradicated coronavirus in less than 30 seconds, can be installed in air conditioning, vacuum, and water systems

By ILANIT CHERNICK

In what could be a global breakthrough in the fight against coronavirus, researchers from Tel Aviv University have successfully proven that ultraviolet (UV) light can kill COVID-19 efficiently, quickly, and cheaply.

According to the university, this is the first study in the world “conducted on the disinfection efficiency of a virus from the family of coronaviruses using ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (UV-LED) irradiation.”

The UV-LED was used at different wavelengths or frequencies with the researchers testing for the optimal wavelength to kill coronavirus.

Ultraviolet radiation is a common method of killing bacteria and viruses, and most of us are familiar with disinfecting bulbs from their use in water purifiers, such as Tami4. UV radiation mainly damages nucleic acids.

The team led by Prof. Hadas Mamane, who heads up the Environmental Engineering Program at the School of Mechanical Engineering, and Aladar Fleischman of the Faculty of Engineering, found that a wavelength of 285 nanometers (nm) was almost as efficient in disinfecting the virus as a wavelength of 265 nanometers.

“It took just 30 seconds to destroy more than 99.9% of the coronaviruses,” the research team said. “This result is significant because the cost of 285 nm LED bulbs are much lower than that of 265 nm bulbs, and the former is also more readily available. Eventually, as the science develops, the industry will be able to make the necessary adjustments and install the bulbs in robotic systems, or air conditioning, vacuum, and water systems, and thereby be able to efficiently disinfect large surfaces and spaces.” 

Mamane said that she believes “this technology will be available for use in the near future.”

“We discovered that it is quite simple to kill coronavirus using LED bulbs that radiate ultraviolet light,” she explained. “But no less important, we killed the viruses using cheaper and more readily available LED bulbs, which consume little energy and do not contain mercury like regular bulbs.” 

Prof Hadas Mamane is fighting coronavirus using UV-LED lights. (Photo credit: Tel Aviv University)

The team’s research, she said, has both commercial and societal implications, “given the possibility of using such LED bulbs in all areas of our lives, safely and quickly.” 

Mamane said that the entire world is currently looking for effective solutions to disinfect the coronavirus,” she explained, pointing out that the problem with disinfecting a bus, train, sports hall, or plane with chemical spraying is that “you need physical manpower, and in order for the spraying to be effective, you have to give the chemical time to act on the surface.” 

Mamane highlighted that medical staff “do not have time to manually disinfect, say, computer keyboards and other surfaces in hospitals – and the result is infection and quarantine.”
“The disinfection systems based on LED bulbs, however, can be installed in the ventilation system and air conditioner, for example, and sterilize the air sucked in and then emitted into the room,” she said.

However, Mamane stressed that “when it comes to ultraviolet radiation, it is important to make it clear to people that it is dangerous to try to use this method to disinfect surfaces inside homes.” “You need to know how to design these systems and how to work with them so that you are not directly exposed to the light,” she added.

TAU said that last year, a team of researchers led by Mamane and Prof. Yoram Gerchman of Oranim College patented a combination of different UV frequencies that cause dual-system damage to the genetic material and proteins of bacteria and viruses, from which they cannot recover-which is a key factor that is ignored.

“In the future, we will want to test our unique combination of integrated damage mechanisms and more ideas we recently developed on combined efficient direct and indirect damage to bacteria and viruses on different surfaces, air and water,” they concluded.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Michal Mandelboim, the Director of the National Center for Influenza and Respiratory Viruses at Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer, and Nehemya Friedman from Tel Hashomer. 

The article was published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology.

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