An observation by a top US official that the coronavirus is quickly destroyed by sunlight led President Donald Trump to suggest a method to fight COVID-19 — by injecting patients with disinfectants.
It took no time for President Trump’s comments at the White House briefing to spread on social media, with scientists and researchers criticising him.
William Bryan, science and technology advisor to the Department of Homeland Security secretary, told reporters at the White House that US government scientists had found ultraviolet rays had a potent impact on the pathogen, offering hope that its spread may ease over the summer. “Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both on surfaces and in the air,” he said.
After Mr Bryan was done speaking, President Trump said he wondered whether the body could be cleansed with a “very powerful light”.
“So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just a very powerful light – and I think you said that hasn’t been checked because of the testing,” President Trump said.
“And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that, too, sounds interesting,” he said. The White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr Deborah Birx was also in attendance. People tweeted videos of her surprised expression when President Trump was speaking.
“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that… It sounds interesting to me,” President Trump said, without explaining the type of disinfectant he was talking about.
It has long been known that ultraviolet light has a sterilizing effect, because the radiation damages the virus’s genetic material and their ability to replicate.
William Bryan shared a slide summarizing major findings of the experiment that was carried out at the National Bio-defense Analysis and Countermeasures Centre in Maryland. It showed that the virus’s half-life — the time taken for it to reduce to half its amount — was 18 hours when the temperature was 21 to 24 degree Celsius with 20 per cent humidity on a non-porous surface. This includes things like door handles and stainless steel.
But the half-life dropped to six hours when humidity rose to 80 per cent — and to just two minutes when sunlight was added to the equation.
But the experiment’s paper has not yet been released for review, making it difficult for independent experts to comment on how robust its methodology was.