June 3, 2021: Physical plasma to combat SARS-CoV-2

Thursday, 03. June 2021

Under the direction of Prof. Gülsah Gabriel, the Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology (HPI) is involved in the project "PlasmaplusCorona (PPC) - Plasma-based disinfection of the respiratory tract to reduce SARS-CoV-2 viral load in vitro and in vivo". In collaboration with the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology e.V. (INP) in Greifswald and the Research Center Borstel, Leibniz Lung Center (FZB), research is being conducted on a plasma-based technical solution for the local treatment of the respiratory tract, which can later be further developed into a medical product.

On June 2, 2021, a virtual kick-off meeting was held to launch the three-year research project to combat SARS-CoV-2 in the mouth and nasopharynx using physical plasmas. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with a total of 2 million euros.

Under the project title "PlasmaplusCorona (PPC) - Plasma-based Disinfection of the Respiratory Tract to Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load in vitro and in vivo", the HPI in Hamburg, together with the INP in Greifswald as well as the FZB in Borstel, are researching a technical solution for local treatment of the virus-infected respiratory tract.

The aim of the project is to develop a plasma-based technical solution for the local treatment of the respiratory tract, which can later be further developed into a medical device.

The basis for this is the knowledge that the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is particularly high, among other reasons, because the virus multiplies primarily in the upper respiratory tract. Even if the symptoms of a COVID-19 illness are not yet present or only very slight, the infectiousness of infected persons is already high. Early reduction of the viral load in the mouth and nasopharynx of persons who have tested positive but are not yet ill is intended to reduce their infectivity and thus counteract further spread of the virus and, if necessary, also illness of the infected person.

Physical plasma is a mixture of charged and uncharged atoms and/or molecules and freely moving electrons, also known as the fourth state of matter. It is created when electrical energy is supplied to a gas, for example. So-called cold plasmas generated at temperatures below 40°C and at atmospheric pressure are already used in medicine to support wound healing. Their effectiveness against microorganisms and viruses has been proven many times over.

In the "PPC" project, various technical options for the local application of physical plasma are being designed and tested. In addition to the comprehensive proof of efficacy against SARS-CoV-2, taking into account the specific requirements to be met by such an application in a clinical context, preclinical studies on the local tolerability of such plasma-based procedures are a focal point. This will lay the decisive foundations for a research transfer into clinical application.

The project combines the expertise of three Leibniz institutes in physical, biophysical, biochemical and biomedical research. The three institutes are members of the Leibniz research networks "Health Technologies" and "INFECTIONS" as well as the Leibniz research network "Immune-Mediated Diseases".

Scientific contact persons:

Prof. Dr. Gülsah Gabriel
Leibniz-Institut für Experimentelle Virologie (HPI)
Martinistraße 52
20251 Hamburg
Phone: +49 40 48051 315
Mail:  guelsah.gabriel(at)

Prof. Dr. Thomas von Woedtke
Leibniz-Institut für Plasmaforschung und Technologie e.V. Greifswald (INP)
Felix-Hausdorff-Str. 2
17489 Greifswald
Phone: +49 3834 554 3948
Mail: woedtke(at)

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schaible
Forschungszentrum Borstel, Leibniz Lungenzentrum (FZB)
Parkallee 1-40
23845 Borstel
Phone: +49 04537 188-6000
Mail: uschaible(at)