Press release

Research investigates the safety of UV technology for Covid-19 inactivation

Published on 23 February 2022

Researchers at the University of Dundee are investigating the human safety of Far-Ultraviolet C (UVC) light when used for deactivation of viruses, such as coronavirus and other pathogens.

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Far-UVC light kills bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and drug-resistant bacteria on surfaces and in the air. Special bulbs that give off Far-UVC light can be used to disinfect the air in public places, such as shops, cafes, bars and offices.

The researchers, led by Professor Sally Ibbotson, Head of the Photobiology Unit in the University’s School of Medicine, are carrying out this clinical trial to firstly establish safety and explore the potential applications of Far-UVC light.

The team are currently looking for volunteers to participate in stage one and two of the trial. They want to hear from healthy individuals who are prone to getting sunburnt to help determine the safety of the technology, which could have a significant impact on Covid-19 prevention.

Professor Ibbotson said, “This research could have a significant impact for the wider application of Far-UVC light to disinfect the air in public places, such as shops, cafes, bars and offices. This could be used as a way to reduce transmission of Covid-19 and other infections in the future.

“However, we need to do all we can to make sure that Far-UVC light is safe for human exposure. We are doing part of this safety assessment by studying the effects of Far-UVC on people’s skin to look for any adverse reactions.

“This technology could have an impact on not only the transmission of Covid-19 but also other diseases like influenza and tuberculosis. It could also be useful in fighting antimicrobial resistance. However, before widespread deployment of Far-UVC devices is established, we need to know more about the effects of the technology on the human body, in particular the safety of Far-UVC.”

Far-UVC light has the ability to efficiently inactivate bacteria and viruses without causing harm to exposed human skin due to its strong absorbance in biological materials. Far-UVC light cannot penetrate even the outer (non-living) layers of human skin or the eye. However, because bacteria and viruses are smaller, Far-UVC can penetrate and inactivate them.

The research being carried on in this early-stage clinical trial is building on previous work completed at the University. The current study aims to increase the number of individuals taking part and is expanding the range of Far-UVC exposures while looking at additional markers for skin cell damage.

Volunteers, who should have a skin type that tends to burn in the sun, will have small areas of their back/upper buttock illuminated with Far-UVC light over a few days. The illuminated areas will be observed visually and small skin biopsies will be taken from test sites numbed by a local anaesthetic.

Participants who successfully complete the study will receive payment of £500 in recognition of their time commitment.

Participant Information Sheets for both stages of the study can be found on the NHS webpage.

Notes to editors

The research was funded by UKHSA.


Hannah Adams

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 385131
Story category Research