I received a couple of enquiries about using ‘Whisky’ as an option for hand sanitiser, I would normally have said ‘no’.
However, some research has just come to light over the last couple of days from a study that has been conducted by a research team based in Germany on the “efficient inactivation of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by WHO-recommended hand rub formulations and alcohols.”
What was researched?
Stephanie Pfaender, from the department for molecular and medical virology in the Ruhr-University Bochum, and her collaborators used a viral strain from a patient in Munich and then infected animal cells with it. These cells were then placed in alcohol solutions of various strengths.
It turns out that the new coronavirus though highly contagious is more sensitive to alcohol than Sars or Mers and can be killed almost completely by ethanol concentrations as low as 30% ABV according to the joint study. The experiment was conducted in a laboratory setting, therefore “one cannot directly translate these findings towards personal use upon application of whiskey or other spirits”.
Though many spirits such as whisky or gin have an alcohol content higher than that, scientists do not recommend using them as a disinfectant unless in desperate situations. Nor as a direct cure to Covid-19.
They first tried a solution of 85% ABV ethanol with water, a formula recommended by the World Health Organisation for making hand rubs at home when commercial products are not available.
The European team found the formula could eliminate viral activities after 30 seconds of contact and an examination of the treated cells showed no more damage caused by the virus.
They then repeated the tests at lower concentrate rates. At 10 and 20% ABV, most of the viral strains remained intact and active. But when the alcohol content reached 30% ABV they were surprised to find a disinfection rate on a par with the WHO formula (which uses 96% ABV).
The researchers said the new coronavirus appears more vulnerable to alcohol than two other deadly coronaviruses – severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers). Pfaender has conducted similar experiments with Mers and Sars strains before and found they could withstand ethanol concentrations of more than 35 per cent.
The exact working mechanism of alcohol on the new coronavirus requires further investigation, but a possible explanation may be found in the virus structure, according to Pfaender.
So what does this mean?
Many brands of whisky and gin contain more than 40% ABV (check the bottle). Though not up to medical standards, creating a hand sanitiser with these high ABV spirits (40% + ABV) can still incapacitate the coronavirus on hands, doorknobs and surfaces.
Please note that the ABV % of these spirits is below what the World Health Organisation (WHO) advise to be used, nor is Downton Distillery advocating the use of these spirits to be used. This work has been conducted under laboratory conditions.