Cold atmospheric plasma can effectively disinfect SARS-CoV-2 in the wastewater

Cold atmospheric plasma can produce peroxynitrite (ONOO−), ozone (O3), superoxide anion radicals (O2−), and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as the major reactive species to inactivate coronaviruses by disrupting the viral Spike protein and genomic RNA, thus hindering viral entry and replication. This study highlights the potential of cold atmospheric plasma as a promising approach to combat coronavirus infections.


COVID-19 is currently pandemic and the detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants in wastewater is causing widespread concern. Herein, cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) is proposed as a novel wastewater disinfection technology that effectively inactivates SARS-CoV-2 transcription- and replication-competent virus-like particles, coronavirus GX_P2V, pseudotyped SARS-CoV-2 variants, and porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus in a large volume of water within 180 s (inhibition rate > 99%). Further, CAP disinfection did not adversely affect the viability of various human cell lines. It is identified that CAP produced peroxynitrite (ONOO), ozone (O3), superoxide anion radicals (O2), and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as the major active substances for coronavirus disinfection. Investigation of the mechanism showed that active substances not only reacted with the coronavirus spike protein and affected its infectivity, but also destroyed the nucleocapsid protein and genome, thus affecting virus replication. This method provides an efficient and environmentally friendly strategy for the elimination of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses from wastewater.

Author list:

Hongbo Qin†, Hengju Qiu†, Ke Liu†, Bixia Hong†, Yuchen Liu, Chun Li, Mengzhe Li, Xiaoping An, Lihua Song, Eric Robert, Yigang Tong*, Huahao Fan*, Ruixue Wang*

How to cite:

H. Qin, H. Qiu, K. Liu, B. Hong, Y. Liu, C. Li, M. Li, X. An, L. Song, E. Robert, Y. Tong, H. Fan, R. Wang, Exploration 2023, 20230012.