An ozone molecule is denoted by O3, and is composed of 3 oxygen atoms. The “oxygen” we breath is denoted by O2. O3 is formed when high energy strikes an O2 molecule, splitting it into 2 singlet oxygen atoms (O1). These oxygen atoms are extremely unstable and reactive, and in an attempt to stabilize, react with nearby O2 molecules, to form O3. In medicine, an ozone generator creates ozone by passing pure medical grade oxygen (O2) through an electrical gradient (between anode and cathode).
The human body naturally produces ozone in the fight against pathogens. In a 2003 study done by the Scripps Research Institute1, it was found that our own neutrophils (immune cells) produce singlet oxygen molecules that are used by IgG (antibodies) to produce ozone (O3) to fight infection. Ozone is a strong oxidant and acts by oxidizing the lipid and lipoprotein components of the cell wall of bacteria. This creates a hole through the cell wall resulting in the lysis or death of the bacteria. Though harmful to pathogens, healthy human cells contain enzymes on their membranes, like superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, that protect our own cells from being damaged by ozone. The byproduct of the reactions of these enzymes with ozone is hydrogen peroxide and water. This production of hydrogen peroxide produces a cascade of beneficial immune responses (the details of which we will discuss in a future blog post).
1Lerner RA, Eschenmoser A. Ozone in biology. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Mar 18;100(6):3013-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0730791100. Epub 2003 Mar 11. PMID: 12631693; PMCID: PMC152232.