Could The Power of The Sun Slow The Coronavirus?
A new research from the US Department of Homeland Security and Technology directorate suggests that sunlight destroys coronavirus quickly, though the study has not yet been made public and awaits external evaluation. So, they found that high humidity, temperatures, and sunlight kills the virus in saliva droplets on non-porous surfaces and in the air.
The study shows that the main natural weapon against the novel germ to be ultraviolet light — an invisible but energetic part of the sun’s electromagnetic spectrum that’s well-known for damaging DNA, killing viruses and turning healthy human skin cells into cancerous ones.
“We found that ultraviolet light was most strongly associated with lower Covid-19 growth rates,” the scientists wrote in a publication that has not yet been peer reviewed and that went online late Wednesday.
Projections of the overall effects, they continued, suggest that the disease “will decrease temporarily during summer, rebound by autumn, and peak next winter.” But they cautioned that uncertainty about the study’s projected outcomes “remains high.”
Indeed, though the pandemic’s spread has varied widely among countries, it was spreading swiftly in some experiencing hot weather, including Australia and parts of Iran.
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William Bryan, science and technology advisor to the Department of Homeland Security secretary, told reporters at the White House that government scientists had found ultraviolet rays had a potent impact on the pathogen, offering hope that its spread may ease over the summer.
“Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both surfaces and in the air,” he said.
Bryan shared a slide summarizing the major findings of an experiment carried out at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center in Maryland.
So, on nonporous surfaces such as stainless steel, the new coronavirus takes 18 hours to lose half its strength in a dark, low-humidity environment, Bryan said.
And in a high-humidity environment, that half-life dropped to six hours, and when the virus was exposed to high humidity and sunlight, the half-life dropped to two minutes, he said.
Researchers found a similar effect with the coronavirus that was suspended in the air – simulating the coughing or sneezing that often spreads the disease. In a dark room, the virus maintained half its strength for an hour. But when exposed to sunlight, it lost half its strength in 90 seconds, Bryan said
So, this new ecological analysis suggests that balmy days might aid — though not by themselves accomplish — the goal of social-distancing measures advised by public health officials.
And others have sought to see if seasonal change would affect the virus that has spawned a pandemic, infecting more than two million people worldwide.
Because, early this month, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences looked exclusively at humidity and temperature and found that they would have a minimal impact on the virus. The panel’s assessment contradicted popular accounts.
But it has long been known that ultraviolet light has a sterilizing effect, because the radiation damages the virus’s genetic material and their ability to replicate.
Sunlight And Coronavirus
Although they say sunlight destroys coronavirus, but the real key question however, will be what the intensity and wavelength of the UV light used in the experiment was and whether this accurately mimics natural light conditions in summer.
While such an idea is currently far from the realm of a safe treatment, life scientists have long been aware that the sun threatens the viability of many micro-organisms.
“Sunlight kills most pathogenic microbes quite rapidly,” John Postgate, a British microbiologist, wrote two decades ago in the popular book “Microbes and Man,” published by Cambridge University Press.
The lethality, he continued, is principally the result of “the ultraviolet component of solar radiation. Ultraviolet lamps can be used indoors to sterilize the air in operating theaters and pharmaceutical and microbiological laboratories. Even in diffuse daylight there is an appreciable amount of light of the effective wavelength.”
Also, previous study has also agreed that the virus fares better in cold and dry weather than it does in hot and humid conditions, and the lower rate of spread in southern hemisphere countries where it is early fall and still warm bear this out.
Australia, for example, has had just under 7,000 confirmed cases and 77 deaths — well below many northern hemisphere nations.
The reasons are thought to include that respiratory droplets remain airborne for longer in colder weather, and that viruses degrade more quickly on hotter surfaces, because a protective layer of fat that envelops them dries out faster.
And with this discovery, US health authorities believe that even if COVID-19 cases slow over summer, the rate of infection is likely to increase again in fall and winter, in line with other seasonal viruses like the flu.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told National Public Radio last month that said that “Most respiratory viruses have a seasonality to them,” he said. “It’s reasonable to hypothesize — we’ll have to wait and see — but I think many of us believe as we’re moving into the late spring, early summer season, you’re going to see the transmission decrease.”
To support the study that sunlight destroys coronavirus, other comparative studies of viruses suggest that, as a class, coronaviruses are especially vulnerable to ultraviolet light because of their relatively large genetic codes. “The more target molecules,” one study noted, “the more likely the genome will be damaged.”
Even so, other aspects of sunlight’s effects may also play important roles in whether viruses can easily infect humans — a main one being its promotion of the synthesis of vitamin D, a nutrient that can strengthen the immune system and lower the risk of certain illnesses.