This TED Talk is from April 2017, but the information and knowledge of this solution never rang more relevant than now as we watch the number of U.S cases of COVID-19 soar past 500,000
Since the widespread use of antibiotics began in the 1940s, we’ve tried to develop new drugs faster than bacteria can evolve — but this strategy isn’t working. Drug-resistant bacteria known as superbugs killed nearly 700,000 people in 2016, and by 2050 that number could be 10 million — more than cancer kills each year. Can physics help? In a talk from the frontiers of science, radiation scientist David Brenner shares his work studying a potentially life-saving weapon: a wavelength of ultraviolet light known as far-UVC, which can kill superbugs safely, without penetrating our skin.
David J. Brenner, Ph.D., D.Sc., is a theoretical physicist and Higgins Professor of Radiation Biophysics, College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University. His interest is in finding mathematical and physics related solutions to biological problems.
Following the death of a close friend due to a superbug, i.e., a microbe with multiple drug resistance, Brenner began research into an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation solution against the spread of some diseases through pathogenic microorganisms. Ultraviolet (UV) is normally hazardous both to microbes and humans. He discovered that a far-UVC band of light within a confined wavelength range around 200 nanometers was cytotoxic to bacteria but appeared, unlike wide band UV, to be absorbed by, and not to penetrate beyond, the outer dead layers of skin, and not to damage eyes. He is continuing his research on the safety and potential extended medical applications (including against airborne viruses) of far-UVC light. He foresees the potential use in hospitals, schools, etc., to help restrict the spread of microbial and viral based disease.
Understandably there are many tests required by the FDA for approval to use far-UVC light spectrums in the U.S, but with COVID-19 and other coronavirus pandemics crippling our economy, there may be fast-tracked solutions to help eliminate the spread of these viruses as they occur.
You can find his published scientific report here on Far-UVC light: A new tool to control the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases