Beijing (China) | Jagran Lifestyle Desk: At a time when the whole world is trying hard to find a vaccine of the novel coronavirus, scientists at China’s Wuhan have revealed evidence for the presence of the genetic material of the dreadful COVID-19 virus in the air.

The scientists, who monitored the environment around two hospitals and some public areas in Wuhan, also revealed hotspots for airborne novel coronavirus RNA. However, the study could not determine whether the coronavirus RNA were harmless or infectious.  

The scientists in their study said that the sample size was small, with fewer than 40 samples from 31 locations, but it supports notions that careful sanitisation, good ventilation, and avoidance of crowds can reduce the risk of airborne virus exposure.

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“Until now, reported modes of SARS-CoV-2 RNA transmission to humans include close contact with infected individuals, contact with contaminated surfaces, or inhalation of droplets released from the respiratory system of people with the virus,” the scientists said, as reported by news agency PTI.

“Whether there is further potential for SARS-CoV-2 to spread through the air has been less clear,” the scientists added.

According to the study, these sites included a grade-A tertiary hospital for patients with severe illness, and a field hospital for patients with mild symptoms.

The researchers said the concentration in ventilated patient wards was generally very low, attributing this to effective isolation and high air exchange.

However, patient toilets, which were not ventilated, had elevated concentrations of airborne viral RNA, they said.

The study noted that viral RNA was especially concentrated in areas used by medical staff to take off protective equipment, suggesting that virus-laden aerosols can become resuspended in the air when this equipment is removed.

“But after increasing the rigour and frequency of sanitization efforts, no detectable evidence of airborne SARS-CoV-2 RNA was found in medical staff areas,” the scientists said.

In public areas outside the hospitals such as residential buildings and supermarkets, the study said the concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA were generally low.

“However, two areas that were subject to large crowds passing through, including an outdoor space near to one of the hospitals, had elevated concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA,” the scientists added.

They suggested that individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 within these crowded areas may have contributed to the viral aerosols.

The researchers cautioned that the study does not reveal whether the SARS-CoV-2 RNA has the potential to be infectious.

They said restricted access to the hospitals during the peak outbreak limited the number of samples that could be taken.

Nonetheless, the scientists noted that the findings support the use of thorough sterilisation of potential hotspots for virus-laden aerosols, well-ventilated hospitals, and avoidance of crowds to reduce the risk of infection.

(With PTI Inputs)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma