Trump touts study on sunlight, asks if we can inject light and disinfectants inside body to kill coronavirus

He was referring to an ongoing federal study that spoke of the powerful effect that solar light appears to have in killing the coronavirus. The research also tested disinfectants


                            Trump touts study on sunlight, asks if we can inject light and disinfectants inside body to kill coronavirus
(Getty Images)
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President Donald Trump has touted an "emerging" study that indicates sunlight and humidity can weaken the new coronavirus, a finding that prompted him to float the idea of treating patients with "light inside the body".

"Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have in killing the coronavirus, both surfaces and in the air. We have seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well where increasing the temperature and humidity or both are generally less favorable to the virus," said William Bryan, undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

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During a briefing, while sharing the "emerging results" of their work, he added, "In summary... the virus in droplets of saliva survives best in indoors and dry conditions... It dies the quickest in the presence of direct sunlight."

Bryan said the results of these experiments can "support practical decision-making" to lower the risks associated with coronavirus. He spoke of some practical applications based on the study findings.

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"For example, increasing the temperature and humidity of potentially contaminated indoor spaces appears to reduce the stability of the virus. And extra care may be warranted for dry environments that do not have exposure to solar light," he said.

Experts are also testing disinfectants currently available such as bleach and isopropyl alcohol on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. "I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes, isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds. And that's with no manipulation. If you rub it, it goes away even faster," said Bryan.

Trump latched onto the findings, inquiring about using light and heat as part of a potential cure. "So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that hasn't been checked but you're going to test it."

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"And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you're going to test that too. Sounds interesting," said the President referring to Bryan.

President Donald Trump inquired about using light and heat as part of a potential cure (Getty Images)

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Trump also asked if there was a way to use disinfectants on the body "by injection inside or almost a cleaning". "You see it (coronavirus) gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number (on the) lungs, so it would be interesting to check that. We’re going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me," he said. 

John Balmes, a pulmonologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco told Bloomberg that inhaling chlorine bleach would be the worst thing for the lungs.

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"The airway and lungs are not made to be exposed to even an aerosol of disinfectant. Not even a low dilution of bleach or isopropyl alcohol is safe. It’s a totally ridiculous concept," he said. 

The results of the federal study have not been peer-reviewed but were briefed to the media on April 23. The laboratory results show that increases in temperature, humidity and sunlight can all speed up how fast the virus is destroyed, based on measurements of its half-life when exposed to these elements.

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The half-life is a measurement of the time it takes for a given amount of the virus to become reduced by half.

"So if we look at an 18-hour half-life, what you're basically saying is that every 18 hours, the life of the virus is cut in half. So if you start with a thousand particles of the virus, in 18 hours, you're down to 500, in 18 hours after that, you're down to 250 and so on and so forth," said Bryan. 

The findings applied to the virus in contact with non-porous surfaces such as door handles, stainless steel. "If you look as the temperature increases, as the humidity increases, with no sun involved, you can see how drastically the half-life goes down on the virus."

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"So it's dying in a much more rapid pace (with) just exposure to higher temperatures and humidity," Bryan continued.

A slide shared by Bryan showed that the half-life of the virus, in the absence of sunlight, lowers from 18 hours to one hour when the temperature rises from around room temperature (70 to 75 degrees) to 95 degrees and the humidity increases from 20 to 80%.

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It also revealed that in the presence of sunlight, the virus' half-life decreases from 6 hours to two minutes at temperatures from 70 to 75 degrees and humidity of 80%. "That's how much of an impact UV rays have on the virus," Bryan said.

William Bryan, undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, said laboratory results show that increases in temperature, humidity and sunlight can all speed up how fast the virus is destroyed, based on measurements of its half-life when exposed to these elements.
(Getty Images)

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Trump said during the briefing while addressing his task force. "I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there is any way that you can apply light and heat to cure. And maybe you can, maybe you can't. I am not a doctor."

Referring to the study findings that were presented, Trump, said, "It's just a suggestion from a brilliant lab, by very smart, perhaps brilliant men. He is talking about the sun, he is talking about heat, And you see the numbers. So that's it, that's all I have."

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"I am just here to present talent. I am here to present ideas because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. And if heat is good, and if sunlight is good, that’s a great thing as far as I am concerned," he added.

Bryan emphasized that it would be "irresponsible for us to say that we feel that the summer will totally kill the virus and it's a free for all and that people ignore guidance. That's not the case. We have an opportunity though to get ahead with what we know now and factor that into decision-making."

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He added, "This is just another tool in our tool belt. Another weapon in the fight that we can add to it and in the summer, we know that summer-like conditions are going to create an environment where the transmission can be decreased and that's an opportunity for us to get ahead."

Deborah Birx, one of Trump's coronavirus task force members, disagreed that the heat and light could be used to help coronavirus victims, saying: "Not as a treatment."

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Birx said that she had not seen research to support the theory that heat could kill viruses. "I mean, certainly, fever. It's a good thing when you have a fever because it helps your body respond. But I have not seen heat for viruses," she said during the briefing.

Earlier this month, experts from the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) had told the White House that the novel coronavirus is unlikely to go away once the weather warms up.

"There is some evidence to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may transmit less efficiently in environments with higher ambient temperature and humidity; however, given the lack of host immunity globally, this reduction in transmission efficiency may not lead to a significant reduction in disease spread without the adoption of major public health interventions," the NAS team stated in a letter to the White House.

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The experts added, "The other coronaviruses causing potentially serious human illness, including both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, have not demonstrated any evidence of seasonality following their emergence."

As of April 24, 869,170 cases have been reported from across the US and more than 49,950 have died in the COVID-19 pandemic, shows the Johns Hopkins tracker. 

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