Researchers from the University of Southampton have revealed how UV light can be used to destroy infectious coronavirus particles that contaminate surfaces.

Scientists believe this could be a game changer in the way that environments, such as doctor’s surgeries and hospitals, can be thoroughly disinfected from viruses such Covid-19.

Leading the research team, Professor Sumeet Mahajan, said: “Light deactivation of airborne viruses offers a versatile tool for disinfection of our public spaces that may otherwise prove difficult to decontaminate with conventional methods.”

The University of Southampton researchers investigated how ultraviolet laser light destroys the virus by impacting each of its particle’s critical components - a core of nucleic acid surrounded by a membrane that is covered in proteinous spikes.

By using a specialised ultraviolet laser, the scientists were able to determine how each viral component degraded under the bright light.

The results showed the genomic material was highly sensitive to degradation and protein spikes lost their ability to bind to human cells.

Professor Mahajan continued: “Now we understand the differential sensitivity of molecular components in viruses to light deactivation this opens up the possibility of a finely tuned disinfection technology.”

UV light includes UVA, UVB and UVC light. It is this lesser studied UVC light that the team in Southampton used for their study due to its disinfectant properties.

The UVC light is strongly absorbed by different viral components, including the genetic material and the proteinous spikes on the Coronavirus particles.

University scientists worked closely with scientists from the laser manufacturer, M Squared Lasers.

Light-based deactivation has received a lot of attention because of the wide range of applications where conventional liquid-based deactivation methods aren’t suitable.

The University said that now the mechanism of deactivation is better understood, this is an important step in rolling out the technology.

It is currently unclear how much impact this new method of disinfection will have on doctor’s surgeries and hospitals disinfection practices.