Infectious airborne microbes, including many pathological microbes that cause respiratory infections, are commonly found in medical facilities and constitute a serious threat to human health. Thus, an effective method for reducing the number of microbes floating in the air will aid in the minimization of the incidence of respiratory infectious diseases. Here, we demonstrate that chlorine dioxide (ClO2) gas at extremely low concentrations, which has no detrimental effects on human health, elicits a strong effect to inactivate bacteria and viruses and significantly reduces the number of viable airborne microbes in a hospital operating room. In one set of experiments, a suspension of Staphylococcus aureus, bacteriophage MS2, and bacteriophage ΦX174 were released into an exposure chamber. When ClO2 gas at 0.01 or 0.02 parts per million (ppm, volume/volume) was present in the chamber, the numbers of surviving microbes in the air were markedly reduced after 120 min. The reductions were markedly greater than the natural reductions of the microbes in the chamber. In another experiment, the numbers of viable airborne bacteria in the operating room of a hospital collected over a 24-hour period in the presence or absence of 0.03 ppm ClO2 gas were found to be 10.9 ± 6.7 and 66.8 ± 31.2 colony-forming units/m3 (n = 9, p < 0.001), respectively. Taken together, we conclude that ClO2 gas at extremely low concentrations (≤0.03 ppm) can reduce the number of viable microbes floating in the air in a room. These results strongly support the potential use of ClO2 gas at a non-toxic level to reduce infections caused by the inhalation of pathogenic microbes in nursing homes and medical facilities.

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