According to a new study in Scientific Reports, scientists have come up with a UV light that kills the influenza virus and is also safe for human contact. Current UV devices are often used for sterilization in medical settings but prolonged exposure can cause skin cancer and other problems.
A team at the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center found a potential solution by using something known as far-UVC light instead:
“We wanted to get all the benefits of UV light in terms of killing microbes, but none of the health hazards,” says Brenner. Earlier studies, on animals and humans, have shown that exposure to far-UVC light does indeed appear to be safe. “We haven’t seen any biological damage to skin cells or eye cells, whereas with conventional UV light we’ve always seen lots of biological damage,” he says. Previous research has also shown that far-UVC light can kill MRSA bacteria, a common cause of infections after surgery.
The study shows that the light “inactivated the viruses with about the same efficiency as conventional germicidal UV light…” This type of light could be effective for numerous public settings where the flu and other viruses could quickly spread.
Now, the team hopes to develop commercially available lamps that will kill viruses in public places. Note that this is not an excuse to not practice good hand-washing habits.