Israeli study: Earth-protecting ozone gas effective at killing coronavirus

Tel Aviv University researchers find that the oxygen molecule can be used to disinfect surfaces, including certain hard-to-reach areas

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A researcher places drops of coronavirus suspension on sterile surfaces prior to ozone exposure. (Tel Aviv University)
A researcher places drops of coronavirus suspension on sterile surfaces prior to ozone exposure. (Tel Aviv University)

Ozone, the atmospheric gas that is known for protecting the earth against harmful sun rays, can also be used to disinfect surfaces from contamination by the coronavirus, Tel Aviv University researchers say.

A new study has shown that exposing an area to the gas was 90 percent successful at deactivating the virus even in hard-to-reach places not normally disinfected with liquid disinfectants, the university said in a statement Wednesday.

“For the first time, we have managed to prove that [ozone] is highly efficient in combating coronavirus as well,” said lead researcher Ines Zucker.

The coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness — known as SARS-CoV-2 — is able to remain active on surfaces for hours or even days depending on the surface and the environmental conditions.

Researchers demonstrated that ozone gas, which is already used as an antibacterial and antiviral agent in water treatment, can also be used to sanitize surfaces. Ozone is a molecule composed of three oxygen atoms.

Tel Aviv University researcher Dr. Ines Zucker. (Courtesy: Tel Aviv University)

“Its advantage over common disinfectants (such as alcohol and bleach) is its ability to disinfect objects and aerosols within a room, and not just exposed surfaces, rapidly and with no danger to public health,” Zucker said.

Rapidly cleaning areas that may have been exposed to the virus, a key element in preventing its spread, has been a major challenge in the battle against the pandemic. Some areas, especially those filled with equipment, can require time and manpower to disinfect via swabbing with cleaning agents.

Using the gas as a disinfectant against the virus required only short use times and low concentrations, the study found.

While ozone can be harmful if inhaled, the low level of concentration required would mean that it would not pose a health risk, Zucker said, suggesting that it could be used to disinfect theaters, airplanes and classrooms just minutes before people enter them.

The relatively cheap and easy production of ozone should make it possible to use the gas as a disinfectant against COVID-19 on an industrial scale, Zucker assessed, and suggested it could be used to disinfect hospitals, schools, hotels, or even aircraft and entertainment halls.

The preliminary findings of the study were published in the Journal: Environmental Chemistry Letters last month.

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