Graphic shows how soap destroys a virus.


How soap annihilates a virus

By Duncan Mil

March 24, 2020 - Viruses are a package of nucleic acid bundled inside a collection of lipids and proteins which can include a fat-based viral envelope -- soap can destroy a virus from your hands before it can lead to infection.

Coughs or sneezes can contaminate non-porous surfaces, where the virus can remain infectious for more than 72 hours and then infect a victim when they touch their face.

New studies indicate we touch our face far more frequently than we wash our hands. One study published by the American Journal of Infection Control recorded 26 subjects who on average touched their faces 23 times per hour. Of all face touches, 10 (44%) involved contact with a mucous membrane -- eyes, nose or mouth -- infection points of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Now, virus-busting soap comes to the rescue. The Babylonians were the first to master the art of soap making around 2,800 BCE. The basic recipe hasn’t changed for more than 4,800 years -- mix fat or oil with an alkali such as caustic soda (sodium hydroxide).

The ends of a soap molecule hold two electrical charges like a battery -- positive and negative.

The positive hydrophilic polar head binds with water and the other end, the hydrophobic tail binds with grease and fatty acids, also known as lipids.

The lipid envelope of a coronavirus is readily broken down by soap. A thorough hand wash with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, actually destroys the virus.

If access to soap and water is restricted and then a vigorous hand-clean with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with an alcohol concentration of at least 60% will also destroy the virus.

PUBLISHED: 24/03/2020; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images
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