The Safest Place in a Pandemic

Updated: Jun 28

It seems pretty likely that we will be dealing with the ongoing pain of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 (or SARS-CoV-2) for a number of years. I don’t know about you, but for some reason my brain always whispers to me around new year that somehow, next year will be different. After so many New Years, you would think I would have realised the irrational hope of “new-year, new-me” was completely false.

Anyway, I digress. What this post is about is a little research paper that I had the honour of working on (when I say working, I mean listening to really smart people discuss really cool virology stuff and supplying chalk), with some incredible scientists from the University of Melbourne and the Peter Doherty Institute. The paper (abstract linked here - https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/mSphere.00313-21), was published in the ‘American Society of Microbiology’ titled ‘Liquid Chalk Is an Antiseptic against SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza A Respiratory Viruses.’

Routesetters in an empty gym
Setting during COVID has been a lonely time

In simpler terms, what the study looked at was how well liquid chalk, which is typically a mix of alcohol and magnesium carbonate, kills COVID-19 and other viruses. The coolest part of the study (IMHO) is that both applying chalk to COVID-19, and applying COVID-19 to dried liquid chalk resulted in “a significant reduction in recovery of infectious SARS-CoV-2” or in other words, it resulted in enough of the virus being destroyed to make in unable to cause infection. The chalk mixture also had the same effect on Influenza (the flu), but no effect on norovirus (food poisoning or stomach flu…. Yikes).

Chalky climbing hold
The chalkier the better, what once was dirty is now clean?

These findings suggest that COVID-19 would have a very difficult time surviving on the super chalky surfaces in a climbing gym, like climbing holds or climbers hands, particularly with the constant application of liquid chalk. If you add that into regular surface cleans and patrons wearing masks, climbing gyms could be one of the safest places on the planet during this pandemic!

Huge thank you once again to the incredible scientists at the University of Melbourne and the Peter Doherty Institute for seeing this research through and getting the paper published! It’s one of the coolest things I have been involved in!

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