Wash your Hands with Water and Soap. The Science Behind It.

wash your hand the science behind it

By: Eileen Ruiz, PhD

 

During this coronavirus outbreak, experts are telling us to wash our hands with water and soap.

The World Health Organization (WHO) state that people should “wash their hands frequently with soap and water” to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus.
Soap is the best defense against diseases. It prevents and stop the virus spreading, therefore, helps control the infection rates.

Then, why water and soap are so effective?

Soap dissolves the lipid membrane and the virus becomes inactive…, it falls apart.

 

Let’s start by understanding what a virus is and how is the coronavirus structure.

What is a virus?

Viruses are particles composed mainly of genetic material known as nucleic acids (either RNA or DNA) and proteins.  The proteins are like a protective coat, called capsid.  The capsid may be surrounded by an additional coat called the envelope.

Viruses are not living organisms as for example, bacteria.  A virus is a particle. It requires a living organism to replicate.  They invade cells of other living things (host cells) and use those cells to multiply. The virus particle attached to the host cell, penetrate it, and then uses the host cell’s machinery to replicate its own genetic material.

Coronavirus Structure

Coronaviruses (CoVs) are enveloped RNA viruses.  It is composed of ribonucleic acid (RNA), proteins and lipids.

The virus is characterized by protein spikes that project from their surface.

cdc coronavirus
Illustration Source: CDC

The coronavirus is named after the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The spikes are proteins that project from their surface.

Coronavirus particles are surrounded by an envelope of lipid molecules. This “oily” envelop can break apart on contact with soap.

coronavirus structure
Illustration Source: New York Times

Soap

Soap has a hybrid structure. It is like a pin-shaped molecule.  Soap is an “amphiphile molecule:  it has a hydrophilic head that bonds with water and a hydrophobic tail that repels water and link with the lipids.

 

soap
Illustration Source:
 Brookhaven National Lab   
Soap are molecules that have a dual nature. One end of the molecule is attracted to water and repelled by lipids (fats) and proteins. The other side of the molecule is attracted to lipids (fats) and is repelled by water.

How it works on the virus? One side of the soap molecule (the one that is attracted to lipid) buries its way into the virus’s lipid and protein shell. The chemical bonds holding the virus together are not strong, so it breaks the virus’s coat. The virus is pull apart, get soluble in water, and disintegrates.

 

Soap is a surfactant. One end of the soap molecule is hydrophilic (water-loving) and binds to water; the other end is hydrophobic (water-hating) and binds to oil molecules. In water, soap molecules form a ring around the drop of oil. This structure is called a micelle.

 

When you wash your hands with soap and water, microorganisms and viruses are surrounded with the soap molecules.  Hydrophobic tails attempt to evade water and try to “escape” from water.  It wedges into the lipid envelop of virus and bacteria, making them apart.  The structure rupture, proteins escape, and virus particle are inactive.

Hand Washing with Water and Soap

What happens when you wash your hands with water and soap?

Hand washing with soap uses mechanical action that loosens bacteria and viruses from the skin, rinsing them into the drain. Rubbing your hands together and rinsing provides a friction that destroys virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that best practices for hand washing include rinsing the hands with water, applying soap and scrubbing the palms, the back of the hands, between the fingers, and under the fingernails.

Make sure to focus on places people tend to forget; the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails, where microbes tend to build up.

Scrub for at least 20 seconds. A person should scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing the soap and drying the hands with a clean towel.  It is recommended at least 20 seconds to allow the soap to perform its chemical action and to interact with the virus particle.  It needs some time to work.

Even if it the soap does not destroy every virus particle, it helps to get rid from the hands with soap and water.

Drying is also important.  The friction with a clean hand towel removes bacteria and viruses that haven’t been removed with the soap and water.

The important is to remove the virus from your hands. This prevents the spreading to your body or other surfaces.  This is an important step to help protect yourself and protect others from this pandemic.

 

References:

Anthony R. Fehr and Stanley Perlman. 2015. Coronaviruses: An Overview of Their Replication and Pathogenesis.  Methods Mol Biol.; 1282: 1–23. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369385/

Corum, J. and Zimmer, C. (2020, March 13). The New York Times.  How Coronavirus Hijacks Your Cells. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/11/science/how-coronavirus-hijacks-your-cells.html

Center for Diseases Control and Prevention. When and How to Wash Your Hands.  Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html

Resnick, B. (2020, March 11). How soap absolutely annihilates the coronavirus. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/science-and-health/2020/3/11/21173187/coronavirus-covid-19-hand-washing-sanitizer-compared-soap-is-dope

El Coronavirus

 

cdc coronavirus

Todos nosotros, de una manera u otra hemos escuchado recientemente la palabra coronavirus.  Enciendes la televisión, buscas las redes sociales, y en las noticias, todo el mundo está hablando del Coronavirus, COVID-19 y SARS-CoV-2.

SARS-CoV-2, un coronavirus, es el virus que causa COVID-19.

Entonces, ¿qué es el coronavirus?

El coronavirus no es nuevo.  Fue descrito por primera vez en la década de 1960.  Los coronavirus son una familia de virus, que incluye los relacionados con el síndrome respiratorio agudo grave (SARS-CoV), el síndrome respiratorio de Oriente Medio (MERS-CoV) y el reciente COVID-19 (2019-CoV).  Es un virus basado en ARN (o RNA).  Recibe su nombre debido a su estructura de una corona de proteínas azucareras que se proyecta a partir de la envoltura que rodea la partícula.  Su estructura parece que posee una corona.

Coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2

A finales de diciembre de 2019 se notificó un brote reciente de una enfermedad respiratoria en China.  El brote es causado por un virus.  Los científicos han nombrado el virus como “SARS-CoV-2” que significa Coronavirus del Síndrome Respiratorio Agudo Severo 2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2).

Es una forma novedosa o nueva de una familia existente de coronavirus. No ha sido previamente identificado en humanos.   La enfermedad que causa ha sido nombrada “enfermedad del coronavirus 2019” o coronavirus disease 2019  (“COVID-19”).

Fue detectado por primera vez en la ciudad de Wuhan en China el 31 de diciembre de 2019.  En febrero de 2020, se había detectado en 57 localidades a nivel internacional.  Ya en marzo, es una emergencia sanitaria a nivel global.

Según los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC), los Coronavirus son una gran familia de virus que son comunes en diferentes especies de animales, incluyendo camellos, ganado, gatos y murciélagos.  Se dice que el virus tiene su origen de los murciélagos.

En raras ocasiones, los coronavirus provenientes de animales pueden infectar a las personas y luego propagarse entre las personas.  Parece que es el caso de este virus que ha sido exitoso propagándose de persona a persona.

Propagación

Muchos de los primeros pacientes asociados con el brote de COVID-19 en Wuhan, China, tenían alguna relación con un gran mercado de mariscos y animales vivos.  Esto sugirió propagación de animal a persona.  Más tarde, se notificaron pacientes que no tuvieron exposición a los mercados de animales, lo que indica la propagación de persona a persona.

Se informó de la propagación sostenida de persona a persona en China, y luego, fuera de China.

COVID-19 es una nueva enfermedad. Hay más para aprender acerca de cómo se propaga, la gravedad de la enfermedad que causa, y en qué medida puede propagarse. El virus que causa COVID-19 parece estar extendiéndose de forma fácil y sostenible en la comunidad.

Según los CDC, se cree que el virus se propaga principalmente de persona a persona.  Se propaga entre personas que están en estrecho contacto entre sí (dentro de unos 6 pies), y a través de gotas respiratorias producidas cuando una persona infectada tose o estornuda.

Puede ser posible que una persona pueda obtener COVID-19 tocando una superficie u objeto que tiene el virus en él y luego tocando su propia boca, nariz, o posiblemente sus ojos, pero esto no se cree que sea la forma principal en que el virus se propaga

Síntomas

Las enfermedades notificadas han oscilado entre síntomas leves hasta enfermedades graves.  Desafortunadamente, la muerte también ha sido reportada.

Los síntomas pueden aparecer 2-14 días después de la exposición*:

  • Fiebre
  • Tos
  • Dificultad para respirar

La infección por coronavirus en forma grave puede causar neumonía, síndrome respiratorio agudo grave, insuficiencia renal e incluso la muerte.

Prevención

Es un nuevo virus; los científicos están aprendiendo sobre ello diariamente.  No hay vacuna para prevenirlo hasta  ahora.

Los CDC recomendaron medidas preventivas para ayudar a prevenir la propagación de enfermedades respiratorias, entre ellas:

  • Evite el contacto cercano con personas enfermas.
  • Evite tocarse los ojos, la nariz y la boca.
  • Quédate en casa cuando estés enfermo.
  • Cúbrase la tos o estornude con un pañuelo de papel y, a continuación, tire el tejido a la basura.
  • Limpie y desinfecte los objetos y superficies tocados con frecuencia con un spray o toallita de limpieza doméstica regular.
  • Lávese las manos a menudo con agua y jabón durante al menos 20 segundos, especialmente después de ir al baño; antes de comer; y después de sonarse la nariz, toser o estornudar. Si el agua y el jabón no están disponibles fácilmente, use un desinfectante de manos a base de alcohol con al menos 60% de alcohol. Lávese siempre las manos con agua y jabón si las manos están visiblemente sucias.

Los CDC no recomiendan que las personas que están bien usen una máscara facial para protegerse de las enfermedades respiratorias. Las máscaras faciales deben ser utilizadas por personas que muestren síntomas de COVID-19 para ayudar a prevenir la propagación de la enfermedad a otras personas.

Para obtener información adicional, consulte la página del Centro para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

 

The Coronavirus

Everybody in one way or another has listened recently the word coronavirus.  You turn on the TV, look at Facebook, and in the news, everyone is talking about the Coronavirus, COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2.

SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus, is the virus that causes COVID-19.

cdc coronavirus

Then, what is the coronavirus?

Coronavirus is not new.  It was first described 1960s.  Coronaviruses are a family of viruses, that includes those related to the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV), and the recent COVID-19 (2019-CoV).  It is an RNA-based virus.  It gets its name from a corona or ‘crown’ of sugary-proteins that projects from the envelope surrounding the particle.

 

Coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2

A recent outbreak of a respiratory disease was reported at the end of December 2019 in China.  The outbreak is caused by a virus.  Scientist has named the virus as “SARS-CoV-2” which means Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2.

It is a novel or new form of an existing family of coronaviruses. It has not been previously identified in humans.   The disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (“COVID-19”).

It was first detected in the Wuhan City in China on 31 December 2019.  On February 2020, it has been detected in 57 locations internationally.

According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), the Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.  It is said that the virus has its origin from bats.

In rare occasion, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people.  It seems it is the case for this virus.

 

Spread

Many of the early patients associated with the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China had some relation to a large seafood and live animal market.  This suggested animal-to-person spread.  Later, patients that did not have exposure to animal markets were reported, indicating person-to-person spread.

Sustained person-to-person spread were reported in China, and then, outside China.

COVID-19 is a new disease. There is more to learn about how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community.

According to CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.  It spread between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads

 

Symptoms

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness.  Unfortunately, death has also be reported.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure*:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Coronaviruses infection in severe form can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

 

Prevention

It is a new virus; scientists are learning about it daily.  There is no vaccine to prevent it as of now.

CDC recommended preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

 

  • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

 

For additional information refer to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/