Wooden surfaces may have natural antiviral properties

Researchers looked at how long viruses remained infectious on different species of wood and found that some are promising candidates for sustainable, natural antiviral materials.

Photo By ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2024, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.4c02156

While wood has been known for years to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, its ability to resist viruses, the transmission of the viruses and the duration of the virus on the surface has not been tested. 

The American Chemical Society reported on research that looked to determine if wood surfaces can reduce the risk of transmission of viruses, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, from person to person via contaminated surfaces. Especially when those surfaces have not had household disinfectants applied to them. 

According to ACS' Applied Materials & Interfaces, wood has natural antiviral properties that can reduce the time viruses persist on its surface, and found that some species of wood are more effective than others at reducing infectivity.

The coronavirus and other enveloped viruses can live up to five days on surfaces; nonenveloped viruses, which are typically more virulent types of viruses, including enteroviruses linked to the common cold, can live for weeks, in some cases even if the surfaces are disinfected. 

Previous studies have shown that wood has antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it an ideal material for cutting boards, researchers said. However, wood’s ability to inactivate viruses has yet to be explored, which is what Varpu Marjomäki from the University of Jyväskylä and colleagues set out to study.

The report said that researchers looked at how long enveloped and nonenveloped viruses remained infectious on the surface of six types of wood: Scots pine, silver birch, gray alder, eucalyptus, pedunculate oak and Norway spruce. To determine viral activity, they flushed a wood sample’s surface with a liquid solution at different time points and then placed that solution in a petri dish that contained cultured cells. After incubating the cells with the solution, they measured the number (if any) infected with the virus.

Results from their demonstrations with an enveloped coronavirus showed that pine, spruce, birch and alder need one hour to completely reduce the virus’ ability to infect cells, with eucalyptus and oak needing two hours. Pine had the fastest onset of antiviral activity, beginning after five minutes. Spruce came in second, showing a sharp drop in infectivity after 10 minutes.

For a nonenveloped enterovirus, the researchers found that incubation on oak and spruce surfaces resulted in a loss of infectivity within about an hour, with oak having an onset time of 7.5 minutes and spruce after 60 minutes. Pine, birch and eucalyptus reduced the virus’ infectivity after four hours, and alder showed no antiviral effect.

Based on their study data, the researchers concluded that the chemical composition of a wood’s surface is primarily responsible for its antiviral functionality. While determining the exact chemical mechanisms responsible for viral inactivation will require further study, they say these findings point to wood as a promising potential candidate for sustainable, natural antiviral materials.


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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).