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COVID-19 is airborne; Masks still essential to avoid the spread of virus, CCMB-CSIR study reveals

The scientists also conducted an analysis of the Coronavirus’ genome content from air samples collected from different areas occupied by COVID-19 patients.

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Meanwhile, the COVID-19 virus was also found in ICU as well as non-ICU sections of hospitals. (File)

A recent study conducted by the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and CSIR-IMTech, Chandigarh together has found conclusive evidence that SARS- CoV-2 is airborne. During the study, the scientists also found that if two or more Covid-19 infected individuals are in a room, the virus in the air had a positivity rate of 75 percent.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Aerosol Science. The scientists also conducted an analysis of the Coronavirus’ genome content from air samples collected from different areas occupied by COVID-19 patients. This included samples from hospitals, closed rooms in which only COVID-19 patients spent a short period of time, and houses of home-quarantined COVID-19 patients.

The findings of the study revealed that the virus could be frequently detected in the air around COVID-19 patients. Moreover, the positivity rate increased with the number of patients present on the premises while conducting the study.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 virus was also found in ICU as well as non-ICU sections of hospitals. According to the scientists, this suggests that patients shed the virus in the air irrespective of the severity of the infection. The study also found viable COVID-19 in the air that could infect living cells, and these viruses could spread over a long range. Scientists still suggest wearing face masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“Our results show that Coronavirus can stay in the air for some time in absence of ventilation in closed spaces. We find that the positivity rate of finding the virus in air was 75 percent when two or more Covid-19 patients were present in a room, in contrast to 15.8 percent when one or no Covid patients occupied the room in these studies,” Dr. Shivranjani Moharir, a scientist involved in the study said in a statement.

“Our observations are concurrent with previous studies that suggest that the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 RNA is higher in indoor air as compared to outdoor air; and indoors, it is higher in hospital and healthcare settings that host a larger number of COVID-19 patients, as compared to that in community indoor settings,” she added.

As we are back to conducting in-person activities, air surveillance is a useful means to predict the infection potential of spaces like classrooms, and meeting halls. This can help refine strategies to control the spread of infections,” Dr Rakesh Mishra, the lead scientist of the work, AcSIR Distinguished Emeritus Professor at CCMB, and Director of Tata Institute for Genetics and Society said. He also added that the air surveillance technique is not just limited to Coronavirus but can also be optimised to monitor other air-borne infections.

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