- A team of researchers found viable coronavirus particles in hospital air.
- They retrieved the live virus 7 feet and 16 feet from patients with Covid-19.
- The virus has the same genome sequence as that from a swab taken from a patient with active infection.
Researchers confirm the presence of viable coronavirus in the air. In the study, a team of virologists and aerosol scientists retrieved live SARS2-CoV-2 virus in aerosols, and not just fractions of genetic material.
The group collected air samples in the room of two Covid-19 patients confined at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. One of them has an active infection.
Both patients have not undergone medical procedures that generate aerosols, such as nebulization or suctioning. These processes, according to the World Health Organization and other experts, are the primary source of airborne virus in hospitals.
Although the research was arduous, the team were able to isolate live virus and test them.
The air samples were gathered between 7 feet and 16 feet from the patients, which is farther than the recommended social distancing guideline.
The room had six air changes in an hour. Moreover, it had been equipped with safety measures such as filters and ultraviolet lights. These helps to inactivate the virus prior to letting the air flow back in.
John Lednicky, the team’s lead virologist, said they only found 74 virus particles per Liter of air.
However, he said indoor spaces without good ventilation might accumulate much more airborne virus.
Results show that the genome sequence of the virus and a swab sample from a patient with active infection are the same.
“If this isn’t a smoking gun, then I don’t know what is,” says Dr Linsey Marr on Twitter last week. Dr Marr is an engineering professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
“This is what people have been clamoring for,” she said. “It’s unambiguous evidence that there is infectious virus in aerosols.”
Some experts say it is unclear if the quantity of virus they collected is enough to cause infection.
The health implications of this study are broad according to the research team. Currently, the best practices to prevent the spread of Covid-19 involves wearing masks, practicing hand hygiene, and social distancing.
Experts say that when indoors, those rules usually don’t matter anymore. The findings should also push us to observe precautionary measures against airborne transmission.
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