Far-UVC light efficiently and safely inactivates airborne human coronaviruses
A direct approach to limit airborne transmission of pathogens is to inactivate them within a short time of their production. Germicidal ultraviolet light (UV), typically at 254 nm, is effective in this context, but it is a health hazard to the skin and eyes. By contrast, far-UVC light (207-222 nm) efficiently kills pathogens without harm to exposed human cells or tissues. We previously demonstrated that 222-nm UV light efficiently kills airborne influenza virus (H1N1); here we extend the far-UVC studies to explore efficacy against human coronaviruses from subgroups alpha (HCoV-229E) and beta (HCoV-OC43). We found that low doses of, respectively 1.7 and 1.2 mJ/cm2 inactivated 99.9% of aerosolized alpha coronavirus 229E and beta coronavirus OC43. Based on these results for the beta HCoV-OC43 coronavirus, continuous far-UVC exposure in public locations at the currently recommended exposure limit (3 mJ/cm2/hour) would result in 99.9% viral inactivation in ~ 25 minutes. Increasing the far- UVC intensity by, say, a factor of 2 would halve these disinfection times, while still maintaining safety. As all human coronaviruses have similar genomic size, a key determinant of radiation sensitivity, it is realistic to expect that far-UVC light will show comparable inactivation efficiency against other human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2.