Rapid Inactivation of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by Tungsten Trioxide-Based (WO3) Photocatalysis

Abstract

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiological agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is transmitted person-to-person via respiratory droplets and, likely, via smaller droplet nuclei light enough to remain suspended in the air for hours and contaminate surfaces particularly in indoor conditions. Thus, effective measures are needed to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission in indoor environments. In this regard, we have investigated whether a system based on a filter combining Tungsten Trioxide-Based (WO3) photocatalysis and an antiviral fabric treated-copper nanocluster could inactivate SARS-CoV-2. To this purpose, an infectious SARS-CoV-2 suspension was introduced in the upper opening of a closed cylinder containing a WO3 filter and a light-based system that activates WO3 and the antiviral fabric. From the bottom exit, aliquots of fluid were collected every 10 min (up to 60 min) and tested for their infectivity by means of a viral plaque assay in Vero cells whereas, in parallel, the viral RNA content was measured by quantitative PCR (qPCR). As we have previously shown for SARS-CoV, a 1:1,000 ratio of plaque forming units (PFU) vs. viral RNA copies was observed also for SARS-CoV-2. After 10 min, the infectious viral content was already decreased by 98.2% reaching 100% inactivation after 30 min whereas the SARS-CoV-2 RNA load was decreased of 1.5 log10 after 30 min. Thus, in spite of only a partial decrease of viral RNA, SARS-CoV-2 infectivity was completely abolished by the WO3 photocatalysis system by 30 min. These results support the hypothesis that this system could be exploited to achieve SARS-CoV-2 inactivation in indoor environments.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

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