A2: Microbes in the News 3

Cold Plasma can Kill 99.9% of Airborne Viruses

Science Daily

April 8, 2019

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190408161630.htm

Summary: Non-thermal plasma such as sparks from electrical discharges has proved highly effective in killing viruses in the air in just seconds. This is achieved by forcing air through a space in which electric sparks are being made.

Connections: From the classroom we have learned how viruses in many ways are a unique “lifeform” requiring sometimes unique solutions to deal with.

Critical analysis: This article is fascinating from a medical technologies standpoint. Air transmission of viruses had always been a concern as it is uniquely difficult to stop. This has a variety of potential applications, but the primary area of interest is hospitals.

Question: Do you think that this can be practically implemented in hospitals and other medical facilities.

3 Comments for “A2: Microbes in the News 3”

cmondelli

says:

This technology has the potential to do some very cool things in the future! My first thought about its application also went to hospitals and other facilities, but I can see why the researchers tested it on a pig farm. The use of this technology in agriculture could limit the needs for antibiotics being used on animals, and help stop antibiotic resistance. Before implementing it in hospitals and farms, the feasibility of the set-up needs to be explored. While they have developed way to use radicals to help us by inactivating viruses, radicals are also dangerous for human beings. Are there risks to people who work in environments where these would be found? How expensive would they be? How many would be needed in a hospital to inactivate enough viruses to make a difference?

djmulkey2

says:

This article is very interesting, and presents a usage of technology (plasma-based) that is rather rare due to the technological constraints of harnessing it. New technologies are key to testing and understanding the world around us, including microbes.

However, I am skeptical of its efficacy in industrial use. Radicalized molecules, while being effective at denaturing viral proteins, are also very good at destabilizing our own. I would need to see more research on the effects of these ionizing filters on mammalian health before I could recommend them for widespread adoption.

MM Ragusa

says:

Response to Critical Analysis: I agree that this article and the source study are fascinating. The primary form of protection against airborne pathogens is filtration. Even the activated carbon in many air filters does not inhibit many viruses and phages… they’re just too small. And self-contained air-systems are just not feasible.
Question: I don’t necessarily agree that the greatest area of application is hospitals, because I don’t know how large the eventual “reactor” would be. I couldn’t access the full source article, but am intrigued to investigate the reactor, and any risks (as suggested by djmulkey2’s comments) to animals (including humans), both short- and long-term. I think size, cost, and safety are the primary limitations on implementation, in any setting.

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