Structure and weak points of the coronavirus, which are important for hygiene in everyday life

Here you will find information on the structure and weak points of the SARS-Cov-2 virus, which are relevant in everyday life, for example for cleaning textiles such as your face mask. Disinfectants and boil wash are not necessary at all – as is often claimed. We will tell you from a scientific perspective which conditions and substances the corona virus does not like and can actually render it harmless.

SARS-Cov-2 background and implications for use and cleaning of your miamasuku® Face Mask

What does SARS-Cov-2 actually look like?

structure of enveloped viruses

SARS-Cov-2 as coronavirus family member is made of three mayor ingredients or parts (as are most common viruses in general):

Lipids (or fat molecules) form a membrane or hull – Coronaviruses are categorized as so called hulled viruses. The membrane contains the other viral components within a watery cell liquid inherited along from its originating cell. The integrity and functioning of the lipid membrane and the cell liquid contained within are essential for virus entry into a new cell (and infection thereof).

Embedded within the lipid membrane and inside the hull are proteins that are either of structural importance or function as interaction and communication means to the outside world. Specifically proteins located within the virus hull interact with the membrane proteins of the host cell to facilitate virus entry and infection.

The RNA (of RNA viruses or DNA of DNA viruses) of SARS-Cov-2 encodes the building and production plan of the virus to be injected into the host cell for the host cell to lose its mind and convert into a virus manufacturing unit.

Other than bacteria or fungus, viruses are commonly not classified as living species. They are not composed of one or more cells, do not grow and reproduce nor do they have any form of metabolism (energy consumption or production capabilities). That implies that a decent amount of substances that are harmful to e.g. bacteria are completely useless to eliminate viruses. The most prominent example of such substances beeing antibiotics, that are not suitable to extinct virus infections.

Four ways to eliminate Coronaviruses

structure of enveloped viruses - dissolved lipid membrane

Dissolve the lipid membrane

Substances or conditions that dissolve or destroy the lipid membrane:

Soaps or detergents attack the lipid based membrane of the virus, as soap and detergents come with a lipid dissolving property. Soap therefore dissolves the virus hull. Without a functional hull the virus loses the ability to enter into and infect a host cell, the virus is eliminated. The lipid dissolvent property of soap or detergent exists independent of temperature. Washing your hands with soap is part of the COVID-19 pandemic recommendations of health authorities around the globe for its effectiveness to destroy the virus – and apparently you do not wash your hands at high temperatures such as 60 or 90 degrees celsius (ouch that would hurt).

structure of enveloped viruses - denatured proteins

Denature the proteins

Substances or conditions that destroy or denature the proteins:

Proteins are sensitive to high temperatures – the process that causes proteins to change their structure upon appilication of heat is referred to as protein denaturization. You have been familiarized with this process when learning to prepare fried or scrambled eggs – the temperature applied to the proteins of the raw egg causes the egg to substantially change its appearance (and taste). Yet, different proteins by nature react to varying levels of heat with the most sensitive proteins transforming at temperatures as low as 40 degrees celsius others will take more than 90 degrees celsius before modification of structure starts. At what temperatures the SARS-Cov-2 proteins start to denature is not know so far – more recent scientific experiments however may lead to the conclusion that it requires application of rather high temperatures (>80 degrees celsius) to permanently and sufficiently damage the virus.

structure of enveloped viruses - destroyed virus rna

Destroy the virus RNA

Substances or conditions that destroy or damage the RNA:

RNA and DNA encode the building plans of all life forms and viruses. RNA and DNA and are particularly sensitive to ultra-violett (UV) light. UV light rays are part of the sun light and damage or destroy RNA and DNA . This understanding is fundamental to the believe that the spread of viral diseases such as the flu is slowed down in the summer months, where people tend to spend more time outside. While living cells have repair mechanisms to cope with UV light induced DNA damage, viruses have not. The RNA of a virus beeing exposed to sunlight will be completely rendered useless within a couple of minutes – therefore eliminating the danger of infection from this virus particle.

structure of enveloped viruses - virus don't like uv light and dry conditions

Dry it out

Substances or conditions that dry out the cell liquid contained inside the viral hull:

Hulled viruses such as the Coronavirus are sensitive to being dryed out. While the lipid membrane or hull can maintain the cell liquid inside the virus in wet conditions, e.g. while the virus floats within a droplet or aerosole, it is not of high protective use against dry surroundings. Scientists assume based on the experience with other Coronaviruses, that SARS-Cov-2 is only able to survive for a couple of minutes outside of any wet conditions (droplet, aerosole or body). When the cell liquid inside the virus hull evaportates, the virus loses the ability to connect to a new host cell and inject its RNA into the cell and therefore will not be able to infect a cell.

Combination of UV light rays and a dry environment  is what makes air drying your face mask

A combination of UV light rays and a dry environment is what makes air drying your miamasuku® face mask outside so efficient. Hanging your masks outside in the sun to let it dry even after a more careful washing proceedure will be sufficent to eliminate any virus particles. By contrast a wet face mask provides a well suited environment for SARS-Cov-2 as a hulled virus to stay functional and infectious for many hours – which is why you should choose to switch your mask once it gets wet from wearing it. Here you will find more tips for cleaning your face mask.