The technology has been in use for more than a century, but now a Scots health campaigner has said urgent research is needed into the use of ionizers, which could be key to helping alleviate the current Covid-19 pandemic.

And physicist and engineer Pete Gavin – who helped force a health board U-turn on the Heartbeat Centre in Inverness two years ago – said previously published research should be immediately reviewed to see how the non-chemical and non-biological method could help halt the outbreak and prevent even more deaths.

In their simplest form, ionizers release negative ions into the air which then latch on to positive ions, such as dust, pollen, and importantly, bacteria and viruses. These bonded molecules are heavier and fall to the ground or on to surfaces such as tabletops. The air is thus cleaned, although the surfaces the molecules have settled on will have to be properly disinfected manually.

Gavin told The National: “This is proven direct electronic air sanitation – not biological or chemical – that works before the personal protective equipment (PPE) barrier.

“A two-year trial reported in 2003 greater than 97% efficacy, as did a 2015 viral trial in a lab, and there were reports last month that Swedish research had now been extended to cover coronavirus.

“We urgently need to drive Government to review the key scientific papers.

“A hospital ward can be kitted out within two weeks for less than the price of a coffin.”

The 2003 trial at St James Hospital in Leeds found that infections of the bacteria acinetobacter in an intensive care ward were eliminated by the negative air ioniser.

During a year-long trial, the infection rate fell to zero. University of Leeds engineer, Clive Begg, told New Scientist: “We were absolutely astounded to find such clear cut results.

“We don’t fully understand how it is working, but we suspect it is damaging or killing the bacteria.

“But if the ionisers are cleaning the air in the way, we would expect to find more precipitation of acinetobacter on surfaces and this is exactly what we found.”

St James’s Hospital consultant Stephen Dean told the magazine: “The results have been fantastic – so much so that we have asked the university to leave the ionisers with us.”

Another team member, clinical microbiologist Kevin Kerr, added: “Ionisers may become a powerful weapon in the fight against hospital-acquired infection.”

The 2015 study by a team of Swedish academics used a portable ionising device to achieve 100% prevention of airborne transmitted influenza “A” between animals and 97% inactivation of the virus. They concluded: “Most interesting and of great clinical significance of this study was the novel finding that the ionising device could detect and prevent influenza virus infection in a controlled setting, mimicking ‘authentic’ conditions.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart, shadown public health minister, said he was impressed with the potential for Gavin’s “innovative” approach and had been in touch with Health Secretay Jeanne Freeman. A Scottish Government spokesperson would not comment “As any use of the ionisers would surely be a clinical decision, not one for ministers.”

Scientists in India, meanwhile, have wasted no time trying to work out how the findings translate into weapons to fight Covid-19.

A start-up in the tech hub of Pune was awarded a 10 million rupee grant to develop its Scitech Airon, of which the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said “helps to control the virus.. could clean up the air and disinfect areas exposed to the infection through Covid-19
positive cases”.

Reltec Air Ionizer

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