Topic: There’s a better hand sanitizer for COVID-19. Why aren’t we using it?
Alcohol, 60% concentration. That’s what your hand sanitizer needs to reliably kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the CDC.
But new research out of BYU, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, challenges this notion. It found that three commercial disinfectants—used in many hand sanitizers and surface wipes as alternatives to alcohol—kill the virus effectively.
Most crucially, it found that a chemical known as benzalkonium chloride (BKC) reliably kills SARS-CoV-2.
If the FDA and CDC embrace these findings, hand sanitizers could be cheaper, more enjoyable to use, and finally be plentiful on store shelves.
HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?
While you may have never heard of it, BKC is the only FDA-approved hand sanitizer on the market that doesn’t include alcohol. It’s been popular in hand sanitizers for years, and it’s also the key ingredient in most antibacterial soaps. BKC is also significantly less expensive to produce in effective amounts than alcohol.
The implications from the research are that we can source a wider supply chain for PPE less expensively than we’re doing now, and that we don’t need to be burning or irritating our hands with alcohol when more soothing solutions exist. BKC wasn’t just able to kill the virus; it killed the virus when researchers simulated real-world conditions, too, such as dirt on your hands or dilution of the hand sanitizer in residual water from rinsing. And it did it in just 15 seconds.
“In my opinion, having run a lot of disinfectant studies, [15 seconds] is about as good as you can expect,” says Benjamin Ogilvie, the BYU graduate student in microbiology and molecular biology who led the research. He says it’s logistically infeasible to observe how disinfectants impact viruses any faster than that.
THESE RESULTS WERE EXPECTED BUT NECESSARY
As Ogilvie admits, the results of this study are in line with what he expected. BKC was proven effective on coronaviruses before this new research; it just hadn’t been shown to work specifically on SARS-CoV-2. David Edwards, a pathogen expert at Harvard who we enlisted to review the paper, found the results similarly predictable. “BKC is a well-known antimicrobial . . . the results of the study here are not surprising,” says Edwards.
Topic Discussed: There’s a better hand sanitizer for COVID-19. Why aren’t we using it?