Ultrasound waves kill coronavirus in simulations

Researchers at MIT have been conducting investigations into ways to combat the coronavirus. The team has found that ultrasound waves at medical imaging frequencies can cause the virus shell and spikes to collapse and rupture using simulations. The protein spikes are the virus component that latches onto healthy cells and triggers the invasion of viral RNA.The study comes from the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering and suggests the virus could be vulnerable to ultrasonic vibrations within the frequency used in medical diagnostic imaging. In the simulations, the team model the virus' mechanical response to operations across a range of ultrasound frequencies. They found that vibrations between 25 and 100 megahertz triggered the virus shell and spikes to collapse and start to rupture within a fraction of a second.

Simulations found the virus would rupture in both air and water at the same frequencies. MIT stresses that the results are preliminary and based on limited data regarding the virus's physical properties. Despite being preliminary, researchers do say the findings are the first indication that ultrasound-based treatment could be used to fight the coronavirus.

Scientists still have work to do to determine how ultrasound might be administered and how effective it would be in damaging the virus inside the human body. The MIT team used simple concepts for mechanics and physics of solids to construct a geometrical and computational model of the virus structure. The model was based on limited information in scientific literature, including microscopic images of the virus' shell and spikes.

In the team's computational model, the virus was a thin elastic shell covered in about 100 elastic spikes. Researchers stress the virus' exact physical properties are uncertain and the behavior of the simple structure across a range of elasticities for both the shell and spikes was simulated. The exact material properties of the spikes are unknown.