Science

Airborne virus can be transmitted via dust particles, fibres present in air: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on August 19, 2020

Earlier, the virus was known to be spread through expiratory droplets

According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the influenza virus can be transmitted through dust particles, fibres, and microscopic elements present in the air, which may have implications for the novel coronavirus.

Earlier, the virus was known to be spread through expiratory droplets.

The authors noted in their study: “We find that an uninfected, virus-immune guinea pig whose body is contaminated with the influenza virus can transmit the virus through air to a susceptible partner in a separate cage.”

They added: “We further demonstrate that aerosolised fomites can be generated from inanimate objects, such as by manually rubbing a paper tissue contaminated with influenza virus.”

The researchers suggested that aerosolised fomites may contribute to influenza virus transmission in animal models of human influenza, if not among humans themselves, with important but understudied implications for public health.

For the study, the researchers measured the airborne particulates emanating from the cages of uninfected guinea pigs and sampled air from a HEPA-filtered guinea pig cage with an aerodynamic particle sizer (APS) that enumerates particles in the size range of 0.3–20 μm.

A camera was also placed above the cage, which simultaneously captured the guinea pig’s movements over time

The researchers also explored the generation of infectious aerosolised fomites from a virus-contaminated but inanimate dust source. They applied stock Pan99 virus in a liquid solution to various commercially available paper tissues and towels and let them dry thoroughly in a bio-safety cabinet.

The researchers concluded in their research that results show dried influenza virus remains viable in the environment, on materials like paper tissues and on the bodies of living animals, long enough to be aerosolised on non-respiratory dust particles that can transmit the infection through the air to new mammalian hosts.

One of the authors of the study Professor William Ristenpart from the University of California, Davis in the US said on their research: “It’s really shocking to most virologists and epidemiologists that airborne dust, rather than expiratory droplets, can carry influenza virus capable of infecting animals.”

“The implicit assumption is always that airborne transmission occurs because of respiratory droplets emitted by coughing, sneezing, or talking,” Ristenpart added.

Published on August 19, 2020

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