Effect of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation on viral aerosols

Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Aug 1;41(15):5460-5. doi: 10.1021/es070056u.


Ultraviolet (UV) germicidal air disinfection is an engineering method used to control the airborne transmission of pathogenic microorganisms in high-risk settings. Despite the recent emergence of respiratory viral pathogens such as SARS and avian influenza viruses, UV disinfection of pathogenic viral aerosols has not been examined. Hence, we characterized the UV disinfection of viral aerosols using the bacteriophage MS2, adenovirus, and coronavirus. Our objectives were to characterize the effect of nebulization and air sampling on the survival of important viral pathogens, quantitatively characterize and estimate the UV susceptibility of pathogenic viral aerosols, and evaluate the effect of relative humidity (RH) on the susceptibility of viral aerosols, to 254 nm UV-C. The viruses were aerosolized into an experimental chamber using a six-jet Collison nebulizer, exposed to 254 nm UV, and sampled using an AGI-30 liquid impinger. Both the MS2 and adenovirus aerosols were very resistant to UV air disinfection, with a reduction of less than 1 logarithm in viable viral aerosols at a UV dose of 2608 microW s/cm2. The susceptibility of coronavirus aerosols was 7-10 times that of the MS2 and adenovirus aerosols. Unlike bacterial aerosols, there was no significant protective effect of high RH on UV susceptibility of the tested viral aerosols. We confirmed that the UV disinfection rate differs greatly between viral aerosols and viruses suspended in liquid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / isolation & purification*
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification
  • Coronavirus / radiation effects
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Humidity
  • Levivirus / isolation & purification
  • Levivirus / radiation effects
  • Microbial Viability / radiation effects
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • Viruses / radiation effects*


  • Aerosols