A physician from Yale University has explained exactly why washing your hands with soap is a highly effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus.
US doctor Nicholas Christakis said the soap can actually dissolve the fat membrane around the virus particle, making it an effective shield against most viruses.
The World Health Organisation has been encouraging everyone to practice good personal hygiene as doctors around the world advise washing your hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
Dr Christakis told WHOOP podcast the virus particles are surrounded by the fatty outer layer on our skin, which is made up of the lipid molecule.
‘On the one hand, that makes the virus much more transmissible so when it goes from me to you, it already has a human coating, it’s like camouflage but it’s that lipid layer that makes it completely destroyable with soap,’ he explained.
‘And that’s why the virus can be easily killed with hand washing and other basic cleanliness routines. We’re lucky about that, it’s not a very hearty virus.’
Earlier this month, supramolecular chemistry expert Palli Thordarson explained how soap dissolves the fat membrane around the virus molecule and it ‘falls apart’.
‘The soap is effectively “dissolving” the glue that holds the virus together. Add to that all the water. Soon the viruses get detached and fall a part like a house of cards due to the combined action of the soap and water. The virus is gone,’ he said on Twitter.
The scientist went on to explain that disinfectants, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol – hand sanitisers – are effective at killing bacteria, but they don’t break down the structure of the virus.
He also suggested bar soaps could be better than liquid soaps because a bar generates more bacterial-killing foam.
The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.
Even dry droplets can carry active virus molecules.
Professor Thordarson said if the virus lands on a rough surface, it can be pulled apart and won’t stay active for long on wood or clothing as it would on steel.
‘So when you touch say a steel surface with a virus particle on it, it will stick to your skin and hence get transferred onto your hands. But you are not (yet) infected,’ he said.
‘If you touch your face though, the virus can get transferred from your hands and on to your face. And now the virus is dangerously close to the airways and the mucus type membranes in and around your mouth and eyes.’