Scientists in Russia are developing a treatment for coronavirus that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect the body from the inside, Andrei Goverdovsky, from state nuclear agency Rosatom, has said.
In an interview with Country Rosatom, the agency's newsletter, Goverdovsky said physicists at the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering (IPPE) are currently developing methods to combat viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. He said they have called the project "luminous gas."
"So far, no one has managed to hold UV disinfection inside a person," he said. "We figured out how to do this. We select molecules and gas components that when inhaled remain activated and emit ultraviolet light directly in the lungs. We hope that in addition to coronavirus, our method [can be used to] treat tuberculosis, oncology and other diseases."
Further details on how the technique works and what tests had been carried out as part of the project were not available.
The idea of putting UV light inside the body to treat coronavirus was highlighted by President Donald Trump during a press conference where he made a number of controversial remarks regarding possible COVID-19 therapies. At the briefing, on April 23, Trump asked if there was something that could be done to use disinfectant to kill the virus "by injection."
He also discussed the use of UV light, which in laboratory tests has been found to inactivate the virus. "I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way," he said. "And I think you said you're going to test that too. So, we'll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute—that's pretty powerful."
At the time, Trump's comments on injecting disinfectants were widely condemned by scientists and health providers. The idea of using UV light, however, is a concept currently being researched by scientists at Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles, and pharmaceutical company Aytu BioScience.
A statement released after Trump's comments by the nonprofit healthcare organization said the research is currently in the preclinical stages. They hope to develop "a technology that harnesses intermittent ultraviolet. A light for treating viruses and bacteria." They said the treatment has not been tested on patients, but had signed a licensing agreement with Aytu BioScience in the hope it could be used to treat COVID-19 in the near future.
Mark Pimentel, who is leading the research at Cedars-Sinai, said the technology—dubbed Healight—administers UV light using an endotracheal medical device. "Our team has shown that administering a specific spectrum of UV-A light can eradicate viruses in infected human cells (including coronavirus) and bacteria in the area while preserving healthy cells," he said in a statement from Aytu BioScience.
Stock image representing coronavirus. Scientists in Russia say they have found a way to apply UV light directly to lungs.ISTOCK