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University Study Finds Ultra-Violet Light Can Make Indoor Spaces Covid-Safe

A landmark study has found that ultraviolet light can be used to make indoor settings Covid safe. The study, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports on 23 March, was led by the University of St Andrews.

The research was carried out jointly by NHS Tayside, St Andrews, Dundee, and Leeds universities as well as Columbia University in New York. The team was sponsored by a £136,000 grant from the UK Health Security Agency (UKH- SA) in order to carry out the study.

Deputy Director for Innovation and Partnerships at UKHSA, Richard Murray, said, “We are pleased to have supported this innovative research.

“The findings offer an exciting insight to how indoor environments might be made safer, protecting people against Covid-19, and other airborne pathogens in the future.”

The trials were held at a bioaerosol facility at the University of Leeds and found that Far-UVC light reduced the level of airborne microbes at a reduction rate greater than 95 per cent even as bacteria aerosol was continuously introduced. The aerosolised bacteria released is known to be harder to inactivate than the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is the virus which causes Covid-19. The bacteria was released into a room-sized chamber, and then the level of microbial reduction was tested when it was exposed to Far-UVC light.

The University of Leeds provided a unique space to conduct the research, as its bioaerosol facility contains the special chamber used in testing the Far-UVC light technology.\

Dr Louise Fletcher from the University of Leeds said, “Our bioaerosol facility at Leeds provides a unique environment for this type of research.

“The facility is a sealed chamber the size of a single-occupancy hospital room where different types of building ventilation and devices can be implemented to test the potential effectiveness of approaches like Far-UVC in a full-scale situation.”

Dr Kenneth Wood, member of the University of St Andrews’ School of Physics and Astronomy, said, “Our trials produced spectacular results, far exceeding what is possible with ventilation alone or using conventional filter-based air cleaners.

“In terms of preventing air-borne transmission, Far-UVC lights could make indoor places as safe as being outside on the golf course at St Andrews.”

Across the Atlantic, Dr David Brenner, director of the Centre for Radiological Research at Columbia University, expanded on the possibility that Far-UVC light could be used to kill more diseases than just Covid-19 and its subsequent variants. He said, “We now know that Far- UVC light is superbly efficient at killing air-borne microbes. And based on our earlier studies we have very strong evidence that it will be equally good at killing all the Covid-19 variants, past, present and future, as well as the ‘old-fashioned viruses’ like influenza and measles.

“So, by simply adding UV light to the conventional lighting in indoor rooms, we can quickly kill all the air- borne viruses in the room and so protect ourselves against person-to-person indoor disease transmission.”

The technology has great potential to be used in medical settings and healthcare facilities, greatly reducing the risk of transmission for front-line workers, who are often exposed directly to dangerous viruses.

Dr Ewan Eadie, who is Head of Scientific Services for Photobiology at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, added, “We are excited by these results and the potential for this technology to reduce transmission in healthcare facilities.

“Our earlier studies at Ninewells Hospital were also very encouraging for the safety of Far-UVC. We look forward to testing Far-UVC directly in a hospital environment.”

Research on the topic will continue following a reward of £270 000 from the United Kingdom’s Health and Security Agency as well as from NHS Scotland Assure

The Paper’s DOI is as follows: (10.1038/s41598-022-08462-z)

Information for this article was sourced from Nature Scientific Reports.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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