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Can Riboflavin & UV light reduce COVID-19 pathogens in blood?
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Can Riboflavin & UV light reduce COVID-19 pathogens in blood?

The recent outbreak of the novel virus COVID-19 has been termed a pandemic by the WHO. Although the disease is known to spread from person to person through air droplets, the virus still manages to surprise scientists every day. New symptoms and modes of transmission are being discovered every day. 

One such puzzle is whether COVID-19 can be transmitted through blood transfusions. With an urgent requirement of blood in the near future, it is critical to understand and study if the virus can be transmitted through blood, due to the fact many individuals may be asymptomatic and not portray any symptoms. 

Research from the University of Colorado took a step further and decided to try and eradicate the virus from the blood as a whole using existing technologies. The study was published in PLOS ONE under the title  “Pathogen reduction of SARS-CoV-2 virus in plasma and whole blood using riboflavin and UV light,” 

The technology:

Dr. Izabela Ragan, one of the postdocs leading the study, that the focus of the team was to answer the big question: If the COVID-19 pathogen can spread through blood or by donating blood, would it be possible to kill the virus?

“The research we conducted answers that question: yes, you can,” said Ragan. “We eliminated a huge amount of virus and we could not detect the virus post-treatment.”

The team treated a sample of nine COVID positive tested plasma and three whole blood products using the Mirasol Pathogen Reduction Technology System. This technology was invented in house by a fellow colleague Ray Goodrich, a senior author of the study and a professor at the university. 

Dr. Heather Pidcoke, a co-author and a chief medical officer, stated that the process used to eliminate the virus was rather simple. The infected plasma or blood product was placed in a specially designed sealed storage bag administered with an advised dose of riboflavin. The bag was later exposed to UV light. The Mirasol PRT device was used to gently shake the bag constantly, for the blood cells to move around and for them to surface on the top and exposed to UV light. 

The future:

The authors of the study have cautioned that this experiment should not be tried at home. They also mentioned that the UV light does not penetrate the whole bag, so the chances of it penetrating body parts are close to zero. 

The authors are hopeful that this study could potentially help avoid what happened back in the 1980s with HIV. While HIV was being transmitted by blood transfusions, scientists were still trying to figure out the virus’s mode of transmission. It should also be mentioned that the use of the Mirasol system is only approved outside of the United States mainly in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. 

“This particular research will hopefully be helpful for the people outside the USA who are using it” stated the authors. Though there is more studying involved in this experiment, it grants hope of potential mitigation just in case.

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