Just over a month ago, a group of 239 scientists with different specialties and origins expressed concern about the possibility of inhaling viruses in microscopic droplets air may be a form of transmission of the new coronavirus.
At the time, the World Health Organization noted that the evidence pointing to this thesis was “emergent, but not definitive.” That is, he did not deny it but he did not admit it either. Now, New research conducted at a Florida hospital indicates that live and infectious coronavirus particles can remain in the air.
Researchers at the University of Florida were able to isolate the live virus from aerosols collected at a distance of seven to 16 feet. (two to five meters) of inpatients with COVID-19 at Health Shands Hospital.
The New York Times took up the research to explain how it was done and its results: The researchers designed a sampler that uses pure water vapor to make aerosols larger and then easily collect them from the air. Once collected, the experts placed the aerosols in a liquid with proteins, salts and sugar in order to “feed” the virus..
Using this method, the scientists collected air samples in a room dedicated to COVID-19 patients who were not undergoing aerosol-generating methods, such as tracheostomies or intubations. What they achieved was collect live virus, with a sampler seven feet away and another 16 feet away, capable of infecting healthy cells on a laboratory dish.
Also, The researchers compared the genome of the virus collected from the air with that of a swab from a symptomatic patient recently admitted to the hospital: they were identical. Although the room was equipped with efficient air conditioning filters and ultraviolet light to inactivate the virus, the experts recovered 74 virus particles for every liter of air.
“Simply I’m not sure these numbers are high enough to cause an infection in someone. The only conclusion I can draw from this article is that viable viruses can be grown in the air, and that is no small thing, “he said. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York, for publication.
Another idea expressed by the experts interviewed by the NYT is that the suggested social distance of six feet may be insufficient, especially in confined spaces with little natural ventilation, like schools or stores. So the more distance people can keep from others, the better.
While this research from the University of Florida is yet to be peer-reviewed, it sets a precedent for study on the airborne capacity of the new coronavirus.