BACKGROUND: Aerosol transmission of COVID-19 is the subject of ongoing policy debate. Characterizing aerosol produced by people with COVID-19 is critical to understanding the role of aerosols in transmission.
OBJECTIVE: We investigated the presence of virus in size-fractioned aerosols from six COVID-19 patients admitted into mixed acuity wards in April of 2020.
METHODS: Size-fractionated aerosol samples and aerosol size distributions were collected from COVID-19 positive patients. Aerosol samples were analyzed for viral RNA, positive samples were cultured in Vero E6 cells. Serial RT-PCR of cells indicated samples where viral replication was likely occurring. Viral presence was also investigated by western blot and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).
RESULTS: SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected by rRT-PCR in all samples. Three samples confidently indicated the presence of viral replication, all of which were from collected sub-micron aerosol. Western blot indicated the presence of viral proteins in all but one of these samples, and intact virions were observed by TEM in one sample.
SIGNIFICANCE: Observations of viral replication in the culture of submicron aerosol samples provides additional evidence that airborne transmission of COVID-19 is possible. These results support the use of efficient respiratory protection in both healthcare and by the public to limit transmission.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
|Early online date
|Aug 18 2021
|Published - Sep 2022
- human-generated aerosol
- viral aerosol
- aerosol transmission
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health