Researchers have found a way to block the hijacking process of adenoviruses by using plasma to damage the viruses before they come into contact with host cells.

Adenoviruses are viruses that can cause respiratory, eye, and intestinal tract infections.

The study findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

An international research team of Chinese and Australian University scientists found that adenoviruses, like other viruses, must hijack the cellular machinery of infected organisms in order to produce proteins and their own viral spawn.

But after the researchers treated solutions containing adenoviruses with a low-temperature plasma they found that it damaged or destroyed the adenoviruses.

The low temperature plasma used to treat the adenoviruses was created by “applying a voltage to a gaseous mixture in a syringe.”

The authors said the “strong electric field energized electrons that collided with molecules in the gas, generating charged particles and highly reactive species such as oxygen atoms that likely etched away the protein shell of the viruses and damaged or destroyed the viral DNA.”

The virus solutions were later added to colonies of embryonic kidney cells. At that time the “plasma-treated samples showed much less viral activity, as measured by the amount of a florescent virus protein the infected kidney cells produced.”

The researchers said that more than 99 percent of the viruses could have been deactivated in less than 8 minutes if the virus solution was covered as it would have maximized plasma-virus interactions.

Adenoviruses pose life-threatening risks to patients undergoing stem-cell therapy, so the anti-viral plasma treatment may help pave the way to safer therapies.

The research team is currently developing a portable device that generates plasma by using a 12 V battery to decompose and ionize air, says Dr. XinPei Lu at the HuaZhong University of Science, Technology in China and leader of the team.

He said the device might be used in rural areas and battlefields.