Visible blue light inhibits infection and replication of SARS-CoV-2 at doses that are well-tolerated by human respiratory tissue

Sci Rep. 2021 Oct 18;11(1):20595. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-99917-2.


The delivery of safe, visible wavelengths of light can be an effective, pathogen-agnostic, countermeasure that would expand the current portfolio of SARS-CoV-2 intervention strategies beyond the conventional approaches of vaccine, antibody, and antiviral therapeutics. Employing custom biological light units, that incorporate optically engineered light-emitting diode (LED) arrays, we harnessed monochromatic wavelengths of light for uniform delivery across biological surfaces. We demonstrated that primary 3D human tracheal/bronchial-derived epithelial tissues tolerated high doses of a narrow spectral band of visible light centered at a peak wavelength of 425 nm. We extended these studies to Vero E6 cells to understand how light may influence the viability of a mammalian cell line conventionally used for assaying SARS-CoV-2. The exposure of single-cell monolayers of Vero E6 cells to similar doses of 425 nm blue light resulted in viabilities that were dependent on dose and cell density. Doses of 425 nm blue light that are well-tolerated by Vero E6 cells also inhibited infection and replication of cell-associated SARS-CoV-2 by > 99% 24 h post-infection after a single five-minute light exposure. Moreover, the 425 nm blue light inactivated cell-free betacoronaviruses including SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 up to 99.99% in a dose-dependent manner. Importantly, clinically applicable doses of 425 nm blue light dramatically inhibited SARS-CoV-2 infection and replication in primary human 3D tracheal/bronchial tissue. Safe doses of visible light should be considered part of the strategic portfolio for the development of SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic countermeasures to mitigate coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Bronchi
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Calibration
  • Cell-Free System
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / radiation effects
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Trachea / radiation effects*
  • Trachea / virology
  • Vero Cells
  • Virus Replication / radiation effects*


  • Antiviral Agents