Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology
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.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Santarpia, Joshua L.; Herrera, Vicki L.; Rivera, Danielle N.; Ratnesar-Shumate, Shanna; Reid, St. Patrick; Ackerman, Daniel N.; Denton, Paul W.; Martens, Jacob W. S.; Fang, Ying; Conoan, Nicholas; Callahan, Michael V.; Lawler, James V.; Brett-Major, David; and Lowe, John, "The Size and Culturability of Patient-Generated SARS-CoV-2 Aerosol" (2021). Journal Articles: Epidemiology. 56.