Effect of nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEFs) on coronavirus survival

AMB Express. 2023 Sep 9;13(1):95. doi: 10.1186/s13568-023-01601-3.


Previous work demonstrated inactivation of influenza virus by GHz frequency electromagnetic fields. Despite theoretical and experimental results, the underlying mechanism driving this inactivation remains unknown. One hypothesis is that the electromagnetic field is causing damage to the virion membrane (and therefore changing spike protein orientation) rendering the virus unable to attach and infect host cells. Towards examining this hypothesis, our group employed nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEFs) as a surrogate to radiofrequency (RF) exposure to enable exploration of dose response thresholds of electric field-induced viral membrane damage. In summary, Bovine coronavirus (BCoV) was exposed, in suspension, to mono and bipolar 600-ns pulsed electric fields (nsPEFs) at two amplitudes (12.5 and 25 kV/cm) and pulse numbers [0 (sham), 1, 5, 10, 100, and 1000] at a 1 Hz (Hz) repetition rate. The temperature rise immediately after exposure(s) was measured using thermocouples to differentiate effects of the electric field (E-field) and heating (i.e., the thermal gradient). Inactivation of BCoV was evaluated by infecting HRT-18G host cells and assessing differences in virus infectivity days after exposure. Our results show that 600 nsPEFs, both bipolar and monopolar, can reduce the infectivity of coronaviruses at various amplitudes, pulse numbers, and pulse polarity. Interestingly, we observed that bipolar exposures appeared to be more efficient at lower exposure intensities than monopolar pulses. Future work should focus on experiments to identify the mechanism underlying nsPEF-induced viral inactivation.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Decontamination; Nanosecond electric pulses; Neutralization.