Researchers said coronavirus may be vulnerable to ultrasound vibrations, within the frequencies used in medical diagnostic imaging.
The team of researchers modeled the virus through computer simulations and mechanical responses to vibrations across a range of ultrasound frequencies and 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 millisecond.
The researchers, including Tomasz Wierzbicki from Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, this effect was seen in simulations of the virus in the air and in water.
“We’ve proven that under ultrasound excitation the coronavirus shell and spikes will vibrate, and the amplitude of that vibration will be very large, producing strains that could break certain parts of the virus, doing visible damage to the outer shell and possibly invisible damage to the RNA inside,” said Wierzbicki.
The team said the coronavirus structure is an all-too-familiar image, with its densely packed surface receptors resembling a thorny crown. These spike-like proteins latch onto healthy cells and trigger the invasion of viral RNA.
Little is known about its physical integrity, while the virus geometry and infection strategy are generally understood.
The study is published in the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids. The team introduced acoustic vibrations into the stimulations and also observed how the vibrations rippled through the virus structure across a range of ultrasound frequencies.
Vibrations of 100 megahertz or 100 million cycles per second was started by the team which they estimated would be the shell’s natural vibrating frequency that was based on what’s known of the virus’s physical properties.
As the virus’s natural vibrations were initially unnoticeable and when they exposed the virus to 100 MHz ultrasound excitations.
But within a fraction of a millisecond, the external vibrations that were resonating with the frequency of the virus’ natural oscillations caused the shell and spikes to buckle inward which is similar to a ball that dimples as it bounces off the ground.
Both in stimulated environments of air at lower frequencies of 25 MHz and 50 MHz the virus buckled and fractured even faster and of water that is similar in density to fluids in the body.
As the researchers increased the amplitude, or intensity, of the vibrations, the shell could fracture — an acoustic phenomenon known as a resonance that also explains how opera singers can crack a wineglass if they sing at just the right pitch and volume.