UV Light and Disinfectants as COVID Treatments?

By Kristen Panthagani

There was lots of excitement and kerfuffle surrounding the idea of using UV light or disinfectants to treat coronavirus. Here is the science behind how these things kill viruses.

UV Light

UV light causes permanent damage to genetic material (like DNA and RNA) by changing its chemical structure. If enough UV light is shined on virus particles, it will break its genetic material, meaning it can’t replicate anymore. This is why UV light works to disinfect surfaces. Does that mean it could be used as a treatment in people? No… because UV light does the same thing to human genetic material. Med school 101: severe DNA damage = cancer and/or death. Additionally, it would be very hard to deliver the UV light to the cells infected with the virus – just shining UV light on a person would not work as the skin blocks it from entering the body. It is physically impossible to dissolve light in liquids so you can’t give people a UV light IV infusion… I guess people would have to inhale nanoparticles emitting UV light if you really wanted to deliver it to the lungs.. but if they did that it would severely damage the lungs, either leading to death now or lung cancer down the road. This is why it is not possible to use UV light to treat humans… it is a potent carcinogen.

Disinfectants (Bleach, Hydrogen Peroxide)

Bleach and hydrogen peroxide are very reactive molecules that like to react with everything… they will try to rearrange the chemical structure of everything they come into contact with. This is why they’re so good at disinfecting… they will just destroy everything in their path. And this of course is why they can’t be used as a treatment for humans… if they were injected into the blood stream, they would destroy the blood vessels before getting very far… if they were swallowed, they would destroy the mouth, esophagus, and stomach… if they were somehow vaporized and inhaled, they would destroy the lungs. Bleach and hydrogen peroxide are like a wrecking ball, and antivirals are like a sharpshooter… Yes the wrecking ball might destroy the virus, but it will destroy everything else along with it. Antivirals are precise and don’t attack the healthy human cells, they only attack the virus.


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