Germicidal Efficacy and Mammalian Skin Safety of 222-nm UV Light

Radiat Res. 2017 Apr;187(4):483-491. doi: 10.1667/RR0010CC.1. Epub 2017 Feb 22.


We have previously shown that 207-nm ultraviolet (UV) light has similar antimicrobial properties as typical germicidal UV light (254 nm), but without inducing mammalian skin damage. The biophysical rationale is based on the limited penetration distance of 207-nm light in biological samples (e.g. stratum corneum) compared with that of 254-nm light. Here we extended our previous studies to 222-nm light and tested the hypothesis that there exists a narrow wavelength window in the far-UVC region, from around 200-222 nm, which is significantly harmful to bacteria, but without damaging cells in tissues. We used a krypton-chlorine (Kr-Cl) excimer lamp that produces 222-nm UV light with a bandpass filter to remove the lower- and higher-wavelength components. Relative to respective controls, we measured: 1. in vitro killing of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as a function of UV fluence; 2. yields of the main UV-associated premutagenic DNA lesions (cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers and 6-4 photoproducts) in a 3D human skin tissue model in vitro; 3. eight cellular and molecular skin damage endpoints in exposed hairless mice in vivo. Comparisons were made with results from a conventional 254-nm UV germicidal lamp used as positive control. We found that 222-nm light kills MRSA efficiently but, unlike conventional germicidal UV lamps (254 nm), it produces almost no premutagenic UV-associated DNA lesions in a 3D human skin model and it is not cytotoxic to exposed mammalian skin. As predicted by biophysical considerations and in agreement with our previous findings, far-UVC light in the range of 200-222 nm kills bacteria efficiently regardless of their drug-resistant proficiency, but without the skin damaging effects associated with conventional germicidal UV exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / radiation effects
  • Cell Proliferation / radiation effects
  • DNA / radiation effects
  • DNA Damage
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Epidermis / anatomy & histology
  • Epidermis / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / radiation effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Radiodermatitis / etiology
  • Radiodermatitis / metabolism
  • Radiodermatitis / pathology
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Ultraviolet Therapy


  • DNA