SARS-CoV-2 viable in aerosol for hours, on surfaces for days

  • van Doremalen N & al.
  • N Engl J Med
  • 17 Mar 2020

  • curated by Liz Scherer
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)-2 remains viable and infectious in aerosol for up to 3 hours and on some surfaces for up to 3 days.

Why this matters

  • Personal, household hygiene strategies should be reinforced.
  • Hospital workers engaging in aerosol-generating procedures should take extra precautions.

Key results 

  • SARS-CoV-2 is viable in aerosol for ~3 hours.
    • Infectious titer declined from 10 3.5 to 10 2.7 TCID 50 /mL during that time (vs 10 4.3 to 10 3.5  TCID 50 /mL for SARS-CoV-1).
  • SARS-CoV-2 exhibited more stability on plastic, stainless steel vs copper, and cardboard.
    • Plastic: 10 3.7 to 10 0.6 TCID 50 /mL after 72 hours. 
    • Stainless steel: 10 3.7 to 10 0.6  TCID 50 /mL after 48 hours.
    • Copper: no viable SARS-CoV-2 after 4 hours vs 8 hours for SARS-CoV-1.
    • Cardboard: no SARS-CoV-2 after 24 hours vs 8 hours for SARS-CoV-1.
  • Aerosol half-life across all experimental conditions:
    • SARS-CoV-2: median, 1.1-1.2 (95% CI, 0.64-2.64) hours.
    • SARS-CoV-1: 0.78-2.43 hours.
  • SARS-CoV-2, longest median viability observed on:
    • Stainless steel: 5.6 hours.
    • Plastics: median 6.8 hours.

Study design

  • Laboratory study evaluating aerosol, surface stability, decay rates of SARS-CoV-2 vs SARS-CoV-1 under 10 experimental, 5 environmental conditions (aerosols, plastic, stainless steel, copper, cardboard).
  • Funding: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Limitations

  • Controlled, experimental conditions.