Sunday, March 15, 2020

Soap and COVID-19

Environmental & Science Education
Biological Evolution
Edward Hessler

What is the reason that plain old soapy water works so well in stopping and slowing COVID-19 from spreading?

Professor of chemistry Pall Thordarson (University of New South Wales, Sydney) wrote a Twitter entry about the soap effect that also went viral but in a nice way. He also published it in the British newspaper The Guardian.

It's chemistry.

Viruses are made of three kinds of molecules. You may recall them from school or college courses in biology. They are RNA (ribonucleic acid), proteins, and lipids (which I'll call fatty bits) consisting of two layers. One of those layers "likes" soapy chemicals and soapy chemicals like them. The soapy water dissolves the outermost layer and the virus breaks apart.

Viruses are kind of weird. They don't die for they were never alive. They simply are broken into smaller pieces.

Thordarson's Guardian piece includes a slightly longer story with some of the details about the chemistry and why soap is better than alcohol-based sanitizers but as he points out, "please use alcohol-based sanitiser when soap is not handy or practical."
And here is a CDC video (10 m 09 s) on where new viruses such as COVID-19 come from. There you can see the chemical structures mentioned above. 

Of course you've seen and heard this but the Italian response to COVID-19 warms the heart and is about the human spirit so it doesn't hurt to hear it one more time.

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