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SARS-CoV-2 RNA contamination of inanimate surfaces and virus viability in a health care emergency unit

January 2021
The Lede
The Center For Health Design
The Nutgraph

Early on, you may remember that lab study we all heard about - the virus is viable on surfaces for hours, or even days, depending on the material. These Italian researchers were looking for contamination in high risk areas. Just what surfaces might contribute to transmission? 4 hours after cleaning, they sampled surfaces in an infectious disease emergency unit and a sub-intensive care ward where COVID-19 patients were being treated. They collected 26 samples on CPAP helmets, bedrails, infusion pumps, keyboards - even staff PPE.

In the end, only 2 samples were positive - the plastic CPAP helmets, right next to patients’ faces. Because all samples were inoculated into other cells, and those tests came back negative, all of the samples, even those 2, were an unlikely source of infection. So why are these results different from prior lab-controlled studies? The real world isn’t controlled and the authors suggest that factors like room temperature, humidity, and even the filtered oxygen used for patient masks may influence and reduce spread. In the end, “real life” conditions matter, and this study suggests surfaces are less of a risk factor than what we thought.

The lede for:

Colaneri, M., Seminari, E., Novati, S., Asperges, E., Biscarini, S., Piralla, A., Percivalle, E., Cassaniti, I., Baldanti, F., Bruno, R., Mondelli, M. U., Brunetti, E., Di Matteo, A., Seminari, E., Maiocchi, L., Zuccaro, V., Novanti, S., Maserati, R., Orsolini, P., & Vecchia, M. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 RNA contamination of inanimate surfaces and virus viability in a health care emergency unit. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 26(8), 1094.e1-1094.e5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmi.2020.05.009
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