Research news

Hydrodynamic cavitation can be used to inactivate enveloped viruses

Publish Date: 15.06.2023

Category: Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 3 Good health and well-being (Indicators)

Researchers from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana, led by Prof. Dr. Matevž Dular, have shown in an experimental study that the phi6 virus, which belongs to the viruses with a lipid envelope, can be successfully inactivated using hydrodynamic cavitation. The study is significant in that it shows that hydrodynamic cavitation has the potential to inactivate pathogenic enveloped viruses in water under ambient conditions. Although the primary mode of transmission for enveloped viruses is not water, the recent pandemic has reminded us that we need to be prepared for the worst, given the possibility of the emergence of enveloped viruses or virus strains that can be transmitted through water in the future.

slika CABUM tekst


Figure 1: Graphical abstract

Current methods of inactivating viruses have their limitations, so the only logical alternative is to explore advanced technologies that could help us effectively and efficiently control potential future outbreaks. The ERC project CABUM, which runs from July 01, 2018 to June 30, 2023 and is funded by the European Commission, is addressing this very issue. The researchers have shown that one of these alternative advanced technologies - hydrodynamic cavitation - can be successfully used to inactivate enveloped viruses. For research purposes, they used the enveloped phi6 virus, which is often used as a surrogate virus for studying enveloped viruses that are dangerous to humans, such as Ebola virus, Zika virus, Dengue virus and coronaviruses.

Hydrodynamic cavitation is a physical phenomenon that describes the phase transition from liquid to gas and back to liquid at constant temperature. The formation and collapse of cavitation bubbles is responsible for the mechanical, thermal and chemical effects of cavitation, which are "exploited" for various purposes. In this study, the researchers wanted to show that they can also be used to inactivate viruses. In two series of experiments with increasing and constant sample temperature, the researchers achieved phi6 inactivation of up to 6.3 log. Inactivation of up to 4.5 logs at lower, environmentally relevant temperatures, 10 and 20 °C, occurred mainly through the mechanical effects of cavitation. At 30 °C, inactivation of phi6 increased up to 6 logs due to the effect of temperature on the viral lipid envelope, resulting in higher inactivation.

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