Fighting Coronavirus with Soap

Fighting Coronavirus with Soap

Washing your hands with soap is possibly the
simplest way to flush pathogens down the drain. Soap molecules can interact with pathogens,
such as coronavirus leading to their destruction. Each molecule has 2 parts. The head is hydrophilic, which means it likes
to interact with water, while the lipid tail is hydrophobic, which means it wants to get
away from water to find similar, water-avoiding particles. This is the basis of how soap works. When the molecules encounter lipid particles
on our skin, the tails aggregate around them to form spherical structures called micelles, creating water-free environment. Similar thing happens when they encounter
enveloped viruses such as coronavirus. Enveloped viruses carry their genome and supporting
proteins inside a lipid bilayer membrane with the proteins necessary for infection embedded
in the membrane. In cells and viruses these lipids are packed neatly into 2 sheets with the lipid tails facing inward. The lipid ends of the soap molecules are attracted
to the lipids in the membrane. They take advantage of the presence of membrane
proteins, which can perturb the neatly organized bilayer to insert themselves into the viral
membrane. If there is only a small amount of soap, the
soap molecules only loosen the membrane, but with more soap, they begin to create micelles around membrane lipids. They are also attracted to hydrophobic amino
acids in the membrane proteins, extracting them from the membrane. The structural integrity of a virus is essential
for infection. So, washing your hands with soap protects
you better from infection than washing with only water, and the longer you lather, the
higher your chance of destroying the virus.


  1. cool video. one question: why are the spike protein and the membrane fusion protein in your animation two different seemingly independent structures? I thought membrane fusion was mediated by the S2 part of the S protein.

  2. the cell membrane on humans (two layers of phosfolipids) look the same, so why dont soap destroy cells on the skin as well?

  3. Sometimes it's the mundane things that are surprisingly interesting. Nobody ever thinks of how soap operates on a microscopic level, but to see how it "throws the wrench in the machine" is a great reminder of how fascinating the chemistry/biology is.

    While this one was certainly made topically, I'd actually be incredibly interested in a series of these videos of how "everyday" things work. Things like heating up food, alcohol exposure, or a timeline of a cell freezing and its survival/death. The daily activities we don't think about, and the massive microscopic impact they have…

  4. If you would like to add closed captions in your language, use this link

  5. BOO..just running into a store to quickly get What ever is NOW like a gamble …OUCH // `Social distancing: Beware my 6-foot wooden stick` .. soon selling 6ft walking sticks .. swing them around you..keeping people Back !!

  6. It says that soap does destroy lipid membrane of virus with both hidrophilic and hidrophobic properties right? so maybe it could happen the same inside body in time when virus moving out of cell or in to cell just with DMG (distilled monoglycerides) or other emulsifiers?

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