Researchers from Purdue University are looking at how food colourings could play a vital role in the fight against coronavirus. The move follows a growing amount of evidence from the scientific community suggesting that the coronavirus could be an airborne virus.
Young Kim, Associate Professor at Purdue University, says that the university’s team identified food colouring dyes that can generate effects similar to those found in more expensive chemicals that are used for airborne disinfection.
Sputnik: How can food colouring help in the fight against coronavirus?
Young Kim: So, as you know, there’s strong evidence that the coronavirus is airborne. That means coronavirus can float and be transmitted in the air. As you know, this word “airborne” is scary. Unfortunately, we don’t have any good solution for this at this moment. So, what we are thinking about is a way of airborne disinfection, this is based on photodynamic therapy, sometimes it is called PDT. It is well known for cancer treatment and there are lots of good medical PDT chemicals that are also known as photosensitisers but instead of using expensive medical photosensitisers, we identified a few FDA-approved food colouring dyes that can generate very similar effects. So that’s the motivation of this study.
Sputnik: I’ve got to ask how important and what important role could this research play alongside other bits of research relating to approaches towards the coronavirus?
Young Kim: Right, so we do have several different techniques or approaches for surface disinfection, but we don’t have any good method to clean or disinfect air when we have any indoor settings and activities and etc. So, Purdue [University] is returning to in-person classes in the fall, actually in a few days, but we don’t have any good measure or protection method when we have indoor activities. So that’s the background for this technology.
Sputnik: How does it compare to similar work that has been undertaken by other academics and researchers?
Young Kim: I think in terms of research, we know actually there were several kinds of laboratories that are working on deep UV disinfection – actually, it’s very powerful – but the problem is UV is a carcinogen. So, we really don’t want to use it for humans when we are around. So, this is why sometimes we have to clean out everybody and then apply this method. This one is very similar in some sense, it can regenerate some of our molecules or chemicals, it’s actually called reactive oxygen species. It’s very similar to oxygen bleach in laundry detergent but we can use this hopefully when we are around in an indoor setting.
So, we figured out which FDA-approved dyes generate the single-led oxygen free radicals that can neutralise or inactivate airborne viruses, so we figured this out. Now the next thing we need to confirm is any potential safety. So, we have some idea for this, for example, the controlling size of aerosols that actually prevent many other things, sometimes inhalation and etc. So, the very next thing we need to do is to confirm the safety for any project’s potential harm. Although we’re using FDA-approved edible food colouring dyes, we have to make sure that there’s no kind of side effect or unexpected hazard associated with this.
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