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How simply washing hands can protect you against the virus, what does soap do?

  • WORLD
  • TeamPresentMirror | Updated: March 25, 2020, 7:22 a.m.




Virus is like a robot, it's not alive but if you break it into parts and attack it's core, it is of no use. As a to-do experiment at home, to understand effect of soap and virus, try this experiment. Virus is like a oil in water, no amount of water can wash away the oil from the container.


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Be it the traffic signal gestures by the Traffic police, the government or the doctors adamant on you washing your hands. What a simple act of washing hands can do, I mean it’s just soap right? A lot actually.

Let’s begin this by understanding what is a virus. The virus is not a living thing at all. Yes, the virus is not something alive. So, why worry? The worrying part comes now.

A virus is nothing but a structure of group of RNAs, Lipids and Proteins. The nucleocapsid is a capsule like structure which encloses its RNA. The membrane is a soft layer of lipids. Now corona virus is a spherical structure of these with spikes at the end. These spikes are proteins that combines with ACE-2 receptors found mainly in your lungs and attacks your respiratory system. Now the virus transports inside your body through passages like mouth, eyes or nose from your hands, when you touch your face. If you break that structure the virus is not there. Virus is like a robot, it's not alive but if you break it in to parts and attack its core, it is of no use. Soap does the same thing and so does the isopropyl alcohol.

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A coronavirus Figure 28.2 from Fields Virology 6th Edition.

The alcohol attacks the structure of viruses and breaks them. The soap competes with the lipids of the viruses which are part of its membrane. The soap has substances called amphiphiles which are sticky like lipids. So, virus doesn't get washed away by normal water as they are sticky. Hence soap sticks with this sticky membrane of virus and renders them inactive In a way breaks their structure by attacking their softest of parts or the virus sticks with soap and washes away. Alcohol as a sanitizer does the same thing. Breaks the structure of the viruses.

As a to-do experiment at home, to understand effect of soap and virus, try this experiment. Virus is like a oil in water, no amount of water can wash away the oil from the container. Now add soap and the oil washes away with water. That’s what soap does. The oil is made of fat and hence it is identical to lipids in the virus membrane

Corona Virus is a spherical ring-shaped virus, well protected and hence difficult to break. That is why a sanitiser with alcohol content of 75 percent by volume is advised by WHO. Better use soap water to remove this virus from your hands. Only in its absence use an alcohol-based sanitiser. The corona virus due to its structure doesn’t go away so fast. Hence a proper wash routine of 20s is advised by doctors in India as well as WHO to make sure your hands are clean off this virus.

Now, you know why you have to do, what you are told. Government and doctors are absolutely right to advise you to wash your hands. Remember there is no cure to any virus. Even vaccines are injected to develop immunity in your body so that the body can form antibodies to fight the virus. So have a healthy diet, do requisite exercises, develop your immune system and above all keep yourself hygienic and clean. Next time you wash your hands look in the wash basin and say, “Go Corona Go”, now you know too. Happy Quarantine.

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