Propylene glycol inactivates respiratory viruses and prevents airborne transmission

EMBO Mol Med. 2023 Dec 7;15(12):e17932. doi: 10.15252/emmm.202317932. Epub 2023 Nov 16.


Viruses are vulnerable as they transmit between hosts, and we aimed to exploit this critical window. We found that the ubiquitous, safe, inexpensive and biodegradable small molecule propylene glycol (PG) has robust virucidal activity. Propylene glycol rapidly inactivates a broad range of viruses including influenza A, SARS-CoV-2 and rotavirus and reduces disease burden in mice when administered intranasally at concentrations commonly found in nasal sprays. Most critically, vaporised PG efficiently abolishes influenza A virus and SARS-CoV-2 infectivity within airborne droplets, potently preventing infection at levels well below those tolerated by mammals. We present PG vapour as a first-in-class non-toxic airborne virucide that can prevent transmission of existing and emergent viral pathogens, with clear and immediate implications for public health.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; airborne transmission; influenza; propylene glycol; virucide.