COVID-19 has changed the world irrevocably. Health authorities around the world began urging people to wash their hands multiple times a day for a minimum of 20 seconds. However, this is not always possible as the virus is capable of spreading through the smallest of physical interaction. Furthermore, it's not always possible to wash hands every time you picked up a bag or exchanged cash. This is where the alcohol-based hand sanitisers offered a quick and instantaneous solution. But this too had a problem. Ethanol, which makes up for about 60-80% of these hand sanitisers by volume, evaporates at room temperature.
The duration for which a single rub of these sanitisers is effective is just about 2 seconds. This is enough to kill any lingering viruses, but it doesn't guarantee any protection beyond this. Not to mention, that repeated use of alcohol strips away the fatty acids of the skin creating dryness and cracks and rendering it an ineffective barrier.
To get protection from the virus that's creating havoc worldwide, researchers are studying and inventing substances that can act as a shield against the virus. In the past, many scientists had researched and concluded that iodine is an effective antiviral element that can help you prevent viral infections. This particular information makes it a hot topic in the current time when we are trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Iodine Sanitisers And Their Benefits
It has been found that Iodine has a germicide action due to its capacity to penetrate quickly through the cell wall of microorganisms, causing a rupture in the structures of its proteins and nucleic acid. Applications for these products are found in hospitals, laboratories, food industries, chemical plants, cattle, and poultry houses, wherever sanitation is a concern.
Iodine effectively disinfects water against bacteria, viruses, and cysts. Iodine based tablets were initially developed to disinfect small or individual water supplies in the US army during World War II. Disinfection studies of public water supplies have shown that concentrations up to 5 ppm of iodine were not deleterious to health and just 1 ppm is sufficient to safely sanitise a water supply.
Iodine Sanitisers Versus Alcohol Sanitisers
The severe effect that SARS-CoV-2 has led national and international health authorities like WHO to issue guidelines on the best practices to prevent the rapid spread of the virus. These include washing hands with soap for 20 seconds and using alcohol-based hand sanitisers to eliminate the virus. However, a lesser-discussed, proven method to counter the virus is molecular iodine.
The effectiveness of molecular iodine has been tested against another member of the coronavirus family - SARS. During these tests, it was observed that exposure of five minutes eliminated all infectivity of the virus. And recently, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam have been using Povidone-iodine as an active agent to fight COVID-19 cases.
The mechanism that molecular iodine uses to destroy the virus differs from that of soap and alcohol (60%-80% ethanol). While soap and water use amphiphile molecules to break open the hydrophobic membrane of the virus, alcohol-based hand sanitisers weaken the intermolecular bond between the membrane molecules to destabilise the virus. Both methods can effectively eliminate any viral load that may be present on the skin.
Iodine-based disinfectants, on the other hand, rely on a different mechanism to inactivate the virus. In contrast to soap and alcohol, the antiviral activity of iodine-based disinfectants is caused by free molecular iodine (I2). Iodine has excellent penetration abilities and low reactivity with protein material. When applied to the skin, iodine-based disinfectants release free molecular iodine which penetrates the skin's epidermis and forms a solid solution. This prevents it from being washed away or reduced. However, the iodine load inside the skin does decrease over a long period. This is because iodine diffuses back onto the surface of the skin in the form of a colourless, odourless gas, forming a gaseous antiviral shield on the skin.
It is in this form that the molecular iodine begins the inactivation of the virus. The extremely slow release of iodine also ensures that it provides protection against the virus for extended periods, decidedly longer than the 5-minute barrier for complete loss infectivity of the virus.
About the author: Dr. Anshu Agarwal obtained her Integrated Masters degree from IIT Kanpur and Ph.D. in Biochemistry from The Ohio State University, USA. Additionally, she did postdoctoral research at Texas A&M University and then worked at P&G Pharmaceuticals and at the University of Connecticut. She has over 20 years of experience as a research scientist in the medical sciences: specialising in applications of biochemistry to angiogenesis and breast cancer. She is the member of the advisory board for I2cure, India's first Iodine-based hand hygiene solution.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.