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Killing a virus by cooling

  1. Nov 11, 2014 #1
    As I understand it, a virus like HIV for example cannot survive more than a few degrees below normal body temperature. Is it possible, therefore, to reduce the whole body core temperature, under controlled conditions, to well below the virus survival threshold temperature, thereby killing the virus?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2014 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    This is not my area, but virus particles are not alive. Most virologists I've met think of them as a complex set of chemicals that interact with living cells. They are very much on the edge between things clearly living and globs of organic molecules.

    And yes, there are surgical procedures that have been used to reduce body temperature during long complex surgical procedures. They have risk.

    Viruses can be purified and turned into a crystalline solid, or suspended in solution. It is in this state (called in vitro) when viruses can be denatured (your term for killed).

    Most purified viruses cannot stand sunlight either. Because UV light damages them. Someone with definitive knowledge in this area can give you a detailed answer.
  4. Dec 7, 2014 #3
    Decreasing the body temperature will make the virus dormant (inactive) but will not kill it.
    Low temp. will kill it only when it is outside the cell or in environment.
  5. Dec 23, 2014 #4


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    Have you a cite for that, as I doubt it is correct. I believe the HIV virus has been shown to survive on surfaces at room temperature for hours, at least.

    I have long wondered why there is no available treatment using heat to kill viruses or bacteria in vivo. Recently I heard that heat treatment is being used successfully to effect a cure of apparently hopeless cases of Lyme (or Lyme-like) Disease, a bacterial disease transmitted by ticks. (I presume the blood is circulated through external heaters and the temperature closely controlled, and this probably under general anaesthetic.)

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/northern-beaches/german-clinic-offer-cure-for-desperate-australians-struck-down-with-lyme-disease/story-fngr8hax-1227025509879 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
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