Boeing And University Of Arizona Find Airplane Cleaning Products Can Kill COVID-19

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Sunday, October 25, 2020 - 10:19am
Updated: Sunday, October 25, 2020 - 10:20am

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Boeing virus cleaning test
An employee uses Boeing’s UV wand on part of a plane treated with the MS2 virus.

Even as airlines post billion-dollar losses, the U.S. Department of Transportation has declined to mandate mask-wearing on airplanes.

But a study of cleaning methods could offer some hope for the future of flight.

Research by Boeing and the University of Arizona suggests chemical disinfectants, ultraviolet wands and antimicrobial coatings can effectively kill SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses on airplane interior surfaces. 

The team tested the methods against MS2, a live stand-in that is harder to kill than the virus that causes COVID-19. Escherichia virus MS2 infects and replicates within E. coli bacteria, but does not cause illness in humans. 

Researchers applied MS2 to frequently touched areas, such as seat tray tables, arm rests, seat cushions, stowage bins and inside the lavatory and galley.

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UA microbiologist Charles Gerba stressed the value of testing real-world materials and locations.

"Most of the antimicrobials that are available today have only really been tested in the laboratory and not in a real-world situation like in an aircraft," he said. 

Gerba said his team wanted to offer alternatives because some methods might not be available everywhere.

"So the idea was to really try to optimize all of these to ensure anybody with an aircraft would have options, and also to look at a way of optimizing these different technologies."

The research has not yet been submitted for peer review.

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