President Trump stirred up a bit of controversy recently with his comments about injecting UV light or other disinfectants in an attempt to treat the COVID19 virus. I want to say up front that I do not hate the President or regard him as the genius of the age. I will certainly say that I find it less than helpful for a President to ‘spitball’ in front of running cameras! But I am not setting out to defend or condemn the president – beyond saying that those who misrepresent him as having encouraged people to drink bleach or mainline Lysol are inaccurate and those who regard him as unfortunately prone to speak first and think later have a point. But, it was the President’s remarks that kicked this new wave of national conversation off. I responded, as is my practice, with research. And, it turns out, there is a fairly-long history and a new twist to therapies involving ‘injecting’ UV light as a treatment for viral and bacterial infections. In the 1940’s and 50’s UV irradiation of the blood was heavily researched and did in fact prove to kill off both viruses and bacteria. There were problems. 1. Irradiating the blood didn’t reach the interior of all the organs – places where germs continued to build strongholds. 2. UV light did as much damage to our own cells as to the viruses and bacteria. These were not seen as insurmountable difficulties. Lots of therapies (think chemo) damage the patient. But, if it kills the disease and then allows the patient to heal, it’s an acceptable tradeoff. More research might find ways to get the light into places the irradiated blood wouldn’t carry it. But, in the U.S. the research came to a halt because developing chemical antibiotics and antivirals seemed more promising. As it turns out, the antibiotics made much more rapid gains than the antivirals – at least so far.
UVI advocates have raised the cry to renew that research from time to time on the grounds that germs develop immunities to the antibiotic or antiviral drugs but not to UV light. In 2016 Cedars-Sinai heeded that call and cranked up UVI research again. Advances in LED technology and focusing in on UVA (as opposed to UVB or UVC) have allowed them, they think, to overcome both the previous problems. UVA is much less damaging to healthy cells and by putting LED devices down a catheter, the UVA can be admitted directly into the interior of the lungs. Initially, the research focused primarily on the kinds of secondary infections that arise in intubated patients. But in the face of the current crisis a bio-tech firm (AYTU) has partnered with Cedars-Sinai to push the research in the direction of COVID 19 – which, researchers say – is also killed by UVA. A press statement along with a world-wide patent for the prospects of the ‘Healight’ platform as a treatment for COVID19 was released via AP on April 20. The process is in pre-clinical trials at the moment.
How quickly can the process move through the testing protocols? I don’t know. Will the process be proven effective in clinical trials? I don’t know. Is this process any part of what the President had in mind? I don’t know. Is the timing curious in any sense? It seems so to me. Of course, there is always research going on and something is bound to turn up. Right? Still, it strikes me that we are, over and over again, more fortunate than we have any right to expect. Almost – well, blessed. It appears to me that we (setting aside national borders and thinking of human beings) did this to ourselves. There’s a familiar story! And, although I may be waxing too metaphorical, it appeals to me to think we may find the cure in - the light.