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Infectious Diseases

Updated 22 April 2020

Scientists tested WHO-recommended disinfectants against the coronavirus – and they are effective

If you are still wondering how to effectively clean up for protection against the coronavirus, this research might put your mind at ease.

At the beginning of the current coronavirus outbreak, we were inundated with guidelines that caused confusion, like if you should wash your hands with soap and water, and if hand sanitisers are less effective. And what do you do if you can't get to a basin with soap and water?

Now, an international research team headed by Professor Stephanie Pfänder from the Department of Molecular and Medical Virology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) has confirmed that alcohol-based hand disinfectants are effective against the new coronavirus, according to a recent news release.

This research was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Must be used correctly

The researchers exposed the new coronavirus to the WHO-recommended disinfectant formulations for 30 seconds.

Then the team analysed how much of the virus remained infectious after being exposed to the hand sanitiser.

"We showed that both WHO-recommended formulations sufficiently inactivate the virus after 30 seconds," said Prof Pfänder.

She states that this doesn’t only apply to those sanitisers strictly formulated according to the WHO guidelines, but to any sanitiser that has high concentrations of the main components, i.e. alcohol, ethanol and isopropanol.

What is in the WHO formulation?

There are two formulas for disinfectant currently recommended by the WHO.

Disinfectant I recommended by the WHO consists of 80 volume percent ethanol, 1.45 volume percent glycerine and 0.125 volume percent hydrogen peroxide. Disinfectant II consists of 75 volume percent isopropanol, 1.45 volume percent glycerine and 0.125 volume percent hydrogen peroxide.

Practise stringent hygiene

Health24 emphasises that regular hand washing is crucial, especially when returning home after going to the shops.

The science behind plain old soap and water might be simple, but it’s effective against viruses. If you don’t have access to hand washing facilities, use hand sanitiser - which contains 60% or more alcohol - and rub your hands together for at least 30 seconds. Also let the solution dry properly.

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