Hand sanitizers vs. Coronavirus: Facts that you need to know


We see them in various colors and container sizes. Some are even like bagtags. Whether they are orange or blue in color, or found in dispensers, being put on cute, triangular bottles, hand sanitizers— hand sanitation and proper hand washing, in general—are in the spotlight for weeks now, with coronavirus epidemic spreading worldwide.

Yet we ask: do hand sanitizers really fight germs and viruses? And, with the coronavirus spreading, is it really helpful?

The family Coronaviridae includes a large number of viruses that can infect fish, birds, and mammals. Some famous examples of these viruses include SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, and due to their high case fatality rates, these viruses are prioritized together with “highly pathogenic coronaviral diseases other than MERS and SARS” under the Research and Development Blueprint published by the WHO.

A novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is associated with human to human transmission and severe human infection has been recently reported from the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province in China. This virus strain is the cause of the current epidemic on certain areas in China.

Coronaviruses, like the COVID-19 strain, have a protective envelope  which contains lipids, and these lipids are systematically arranged for the protection of the virus’ genetic material and other active components.

Disinfectants like quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) or QUATS are ideal in fighting viruses. Most commonly used disinfectant, QUATS are membrane-active agents interacting with the cytoplasmic membrane of bacteria and lipids of viruses. The hydrophobic activity makes QUATS effective against lipid-enveloped viruses. Ideal hand sanitizers contains these QACs.

The mode of action of QACs against viruses includes the destabilization and disorganization of the lipids, proteins and nucleic acids that build the viruses. The surface active sites in their molecular structures allow them to destabilize the complex lipid – protein interactions that protect the genetic codes of viruses.

Different studies were conducted to test the efficacy of using QACs against Coronaviruses. One research has experimented with various disinfectants and found out that 0.10% of a quaternary compound with 79.0% of ethanol provided at least a 90.9% reduction of the virus from the surface. One disadvantage of ethanol alone as disinfectant is that it is concentration dependent. Once it evaporates no residual effect that protects the skin from potential disease causing organisms like coronavirus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water. However, they recommend that if soap and water is not available, one should use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  And when using them, it’s important to rub the product all over the surface of your hands until your hands are dry.

Formulating effective and high-quality personal care products, Dell Biologics Inc. (DBI) has created hand sanitizers that contains high-generation QACs. QAC, pure  or in combination with alcohol, leaves a film on skin when sprayed that could still act as antimicrobial barrier and gives a person longer protection against disease causing microorganisms like COVID-19 . It is therefore more efficient and effective than just plain alcohol.

Moreover, DBI’s hand sanitizers contain special essential oils that doubles up protection against bacteria and viruses. Essential oils have also been found to have virucidal activity against enveloped viruses. Various essential oils have been found to be effective against Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV -1 and HSV-2), and lemongrass essential oil has been studied to have virucidal properties against Ross River Virus (RRV). When it comes to extraction of essential oils, studies show that there are no two same batches of extracted essential oil, so it means to say that when it comes to efficacy, each batch has a unique structure. This also means that viruses and bacteria won’t be able to develop resistance that fast to counter the efficacy of essential oils.

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