A study in Wuhan, China, detected genetic material of the new coronavirus in airborne suspensions, or aerosols, in hospitals and public spaces. The finding reinforces the importance of thorough sterilization of infection hotspots, good ventilation, and avoidance of crowding.
A preliminary study of data from two hospitals in Wuhan, China, suggests that tiny airborne pa
To date, scientists have established three ways in which severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) — the virus that causes coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) — can be transmitted:
inhalation of liquid droplets from the coughing or sneezing of a person with the infection
close contact with a person who has the infection
contact with surfaces that contain the virus
According to a recent study in China, aerosols may offer a fourth transmission route for the virus.
Aerosols are airborne particles that measure around 1 micrometer (one-thousandth of a millimeter) in diameter at most. Because they are much smaller than droplets, they remain suspended in the air for longer and can travel farther.
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In their study, the researchers detected genetic material, RNA, of the virus in aerosols sampled from two hospitals and various public places in the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started.
Because of the relevance of their findings to the ongoing public health emergency, the researchers posted a full, unedited preprint of their study paper on the server bioRxiv on March 10, 2020. An unedited abstract of the paper was also recently published in the journal Nature.
The scientists used air filtration devices called aerosol traps to collect a total of 35 samples from 31 locations between February 17 and March 2, 2020.
The number of samples was relatively low because access to hospitals became tightly restricted at the peak of the outbreak.
In addition, the researchers emphasize that their study did not establish whether the virus-laden aerosols were capable of infecting people.