Sunlight deactivates the coronavirus 8 times faster than we thought

Ultraviolet radiation is capable of causing genetic damage to the coronavirus when exposed to UV-B rays for 10 to 20 minutes.

In addition to all the sanitary measures used during the pandemic, it is likely that the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere will bring with it a beneficial and unexpected effect to combat the coronavirus: the solar radiation.

A study by the University of Santa Barbara, California, in conjunction with Oregon State University, the Federal Polytechnic School of Zurich and the University of Manchester examined the behavior of the coronavirus when exposed to ultraviolet radiation emitted by the Sun and obtained a unsuspected result:

The theory indicates that UV-B rays (medium wave between the ultraviolet light emitted by the Sun) that manage to penetrate the atmosphere, are capable of permanently damaging the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2, deactivating it in approximately 70 or 80 minutes.

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However, the team led by mechanical engineer Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz and his colleagues, recreated the conditions of sunlight on a fluid that simulated saliva with coronavirus and discovered that the virus is inactivated after spending 10 to 20 minutes exposed to the radiation.

Unlike UV-A rays, which account for 95% of solar radiation and cause changes in skin pigmentation, UV-B only reach close to 5% of the ultraviolet light emitted by our closest star. Although they are vital for the synthesis of vitamin D, prolonged exposure to UV-B has harmful effects and is considered the main cause of skin cancer.

The speed of the Sun to cause permanent damage to virus particles surprised the study authors and leads to rethinking the notion that UV-B radiation is not solely responsible for this rapid deactivation of SARS-CoV-2.

The results, published in a letter in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, raise different hypotheses, such as the possibility that some effect of UV-A rays on the virus has been going unnoticed until now.

If this theory is confirmed, it would be possible to propose new harmless alternatives to deactivate SARS-CoV-2 in the environment, such as the use of LED spotlights that accelerate the genetic damage to the virus and prevent its transmission; however, the other factors involved in this process are still a mystery.

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