The researches are coming up with innovative ideas to fight the deadly COVID-19 and eventually end this coronavirus pandemic. Research teams from various countries are looking for new technologies to fight the virus in an easier and practical way. In the meantime, the efforts of Columbia University researchers from the past few years can prove fruitful to confront this challenge by using ultraviolet lamps.
The initial findings of this research have been submitted to Nature.
UVC lamps use Ultraviolet-C light and it has been previously used for sanitation purposes in the food industry and hospitals to keep the environment clean from fungi, viruses, and bacteria.
The Ultraviolet-C rays are not generally safe to use in the presence of humans as it is linked to causing skin and eye diseases.
However, the Chinese subway system has used this technology during the night time when the trains are not operational which the New York subway system is also following to decontaminate the trains.
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Researchers at the Center for Radiological Research in Columbia are analyzing short-wavelength UVC rays known as far UVC of 222 nanometers which target viruses but it is harmless for humans. The director of the center, David Brenner said that the UVC rays at this particular wavelength cannot pass through the barrier of skin and eyes so it is safe to use.
Hence, UVC lamps can be effectively used to control the virus in crowded public areas with closed spaces where the risk of spread of the virus is high.
US President Donald Trump gave a baffling statement in the last month which seemed to be influenced by the research conducted by the federal department. He mentioned the use of UV rays to penetrate the body and eliminate the virus, while the federal research is regarding the use of natural light which does not have UVC rays hence, not effective against the coronavirus.
The Columbian team of researchers started studying the effect of far UVC on antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 2013. It was then used against other viruses including the influenza virus and now it is being tested against the novel coronavirus.
The research started not more than a month ago and the results show that it is proven to kill the virus in a few minutes. The research was started in a high-level biosafety lab as the coronavirus is highly contagious.
The experiment was successful against viruses present on surfaces and it will be further conducted against viruses present in the air due to the coughing of an infected person. An experiment is also conducted side by side to see the effect of far UVC on humans.
Lab mice and rodents have been exposed to 20 times more intense rays as compared to humans for 40 weeks for five days weekly and 8 hours daily. The experiment has been successful so far and it will be conducted for another 20 weeks.
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Although the research has not been completed yet, the industries have already started bulk production of ultraviolet lamps under the pressure of the global economy which is already falling apart.
UVC lamps have already been used to identify real gems by the diamond industry at a commercial level for the past couple of years.
Due to the pandemic, the FDA has eased the rules and regulations for the production of disinfecting equipment and substances. Japanese manufacturer Shinji Kameda, chief operations officer in the US for Ushio said that there will be a high demand for the commercial production of UVC lamps to be used in public areas including hotels, restaurants, schools, and airplanes.
The UVC lamps are already in use in some hospitals in Japan and the production will be increased by October. Currently, the cost of these 222-nanometer lamps is from $500 to $800.
Brenner said that the COVID-19 pandemic could have been controlled if the research on far UVC lamps was started a couple of years ago.
The scientists are desperately looking for tools and methods to control the coronavirus pandemic and reduce the risk of infection in public spaces.