Discover more from Learning by Proxy with Vivek Srinivasan
Did you know? Virus
One of the most basic things that people are being pushed to do is to wash their hands. This is needed to kill the viruses. But how does that really happen?
How to kill at Virus
So why does soap work so well on the Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus and indeed most viruses? The short story: because the virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. Soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and dies – or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive.
The slightly longer story is that most viruses consist of three key building blocks: ribonucleic acid (RNA), proteins and lipids. A virus-infected cell makes lots of these building blocks, which then spontaneously self-assemble to form the virus. Critically, there are no strong covalent bonds holding these units together, which means you do not necessarily need harsh chemicals to split those units apart. When an infected cell dies, all these new viruses escape and go on to infect other cells. Some end up also in the airways of lungs.
Soaps are made of oils - fat molecules. The weakest link in a virus is the lipid bilayer - fat band. Soap reacts with the fat layer and dissolves it. Simple enough chemistry.