Photo Credit: NIAID-RML / flickr
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab.

Researchers in Australia have discovered the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 can survive for at least 28 days on smooth surfaces such as bank notes, glass, phone screens and stainless steel.

The scientists at Australia’s CSIRO science agency carried out the experiments on the novel coronavirus in the dark and at 68 degrees Farenheit (room temperature), according to Reuters. Ultraviolet light (such as sunlight) can kill the virus: hence, the choice of darkness.

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The study showed the virus survived longer at cooler temperatures, longer on smooth surfaces and longer on paper bank notes than on those made of plastic.

Shane Riddell, principal investigator in the study, which was published Monday in Virology Journal, told Reuters, “So in the real world results would likely be shorter than what we were able to show… It really reinforces the importance of washing hands and sanitizing where possible and certainly wiping down surfaces that may be in contact with the virus.”

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said surface survivability research builds on the national science agency’s other COVID-19 work, including vaccine testing, wastewater testing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) manufacture and accreditation, and big data dashboards supporting each state.

“Establishing how long the virus really remains viable on surfaces enables us to more accurately predict and mitigate its spread, and do a better job of protecting our people,” Marshall said.

Dr. Debbie Eagles, deputy director of the Australian Center for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) in Geelong, said “For context, similar experiments for Influenza A have found that it survived on surfaces for 17 days, which highlights just how resilient SARS-CoV-2 is.”

The research involved drying virus in an artificial mucus on different surfaces, at concentrations similar to those reported in samples from infected patients and then re-isolating the virus over a month. Further experiments were carried out at 30 and 40 degrees Celsius, with survival times decreasing as the temperature increased.

“Together, we hope this suite of solutions from science will break down the barriers between us, and shift focus to dealing with specific virus hotspots so we can get the economy back on track.”

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