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expert reaction to a Nature paper presenting evidence for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the air

A paper, published in Nature, reports on the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the air.


Professor Lawrence Young FMedSci, Professor of Molecular Oncology, University of Warwick, said:

“We still don’t fully understand how the new coronavirus spreads, but we’re learning more every day. There’s respiratory transmission (standing too close to an infected individual), aerosol transmission (where fine particles stay in the air or move with air currents) and contact transmission (more controversial as we don’t know how viable infectious virus is on contaminated surfaces).

“This publication shows that the genetic material (RNA) of SARS-CoV-2 can be detected in aerosols sampled from various locations in two hospitals in Wuhan. It highlights the capacity for protective materials worn by medical staff to contaminate areas where this protective clothing is removed and for ventilation to disperse the virus RNA. The study also demonstrates that outside areas where people congregate could also be a source of the virus.

“Detecting the virus genetic material (RNA) with a very sensitive test (RT-PCR) is not the same as detecting infectious virus. Dead or degraded virus would still be detected with this technique. In fact, this method is so sensitive that there needs to be stringent control measures to prevent sample cross-contamination. The sampling of aerosols is subject to enormous variation and the small sample size in this study also means that the data needs to be interpreted with caution.

“Nevertheless, this study supports previous work which shows that infectious virus can be shed into the environment and remain viable (infectious) on surfaces for up to 3 days. It also emphasizes the importance of rigorous sanitization procedures in high risk areas and on surfaces, including the protective clothing of healthcare workers.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


Declared interests

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