Scientists have discovered a type of microbe that may be linked to a severe form of COVID-19.
A new study shows that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces near sick patients, but is unlikely to infect anyone through these surfaces. The findings add to previous research showing that the coronavirus typically spreads through the air, rather than through touch. The researchers also found a new link between the coronavirus and a type of microbe that may be associated with a severe form of COVID.
Although the coronavirus can survive on beds, floors, and other surfaces near patients with COVID-19, it is unlikely to be transmitted to another person. This is the conclusion reached by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, who swabbed surfaces in the wards of COVID patients before, during, and after they were occupied by patients, and found the coronavirus in about 13 percent of the samples.
According to the Daily Mail, none of the medical workers who care for patients observed in the study tested positive for coronavirus, despite frequent contact with hospital surfaces, which suggests that transmission through the surface is rare and that personal protective equipment works effectively.
The result also revealed a new link between the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and a type of microbe that may be linked to cardiovascular disease and severe COVID-19.
At the beginning of the pandemic, American public health experts urged people to be careful about surface transmission, where the virus spreads through particles lingering on door handles, tables, and other common items.
“Wash your hands” has become a common mantra, the Daily Mail recalls, and hand sanitizers have been sold out.
However, experts now believe that the transmission of coronavirus through surfaces is quite rare. Instead, the virus usually spreads through the air-either through relatively large particles that fly away when an infected person sneezes or coughs, or through smaller particles that can travel long distances.
The new study reinforces evidence that surface transmission is rare. The scientists’ findings also provide new insights into how the coronavirus shares space with bacteria.
As part of the study, published Tuesday in the journal Microbiome, researchers took swabs from hospital wards to study how the coronavirus acts on surfaces. The team collected nearly a thousand samples from 16 patients with confirmed cases of COVID, as well as from 10 healthcare professionals caring for these patients, and from hundreds of locations inside and outside hospital wards.
These 16 patients remained in the hospital for up to three weeks, and the researchers collected samples before, during, and after their hospital stay.
The researchers found that of these surface samples, 13% of the sites had enough coronavirus to be detected by a PCR test, which is considered the “gold standard” of testing.
Samples taken from the floor next to patients’ beds and directly outside their rooms were most likely to contain the coronavirus – with prevalence rates of 39 and 29 percent, respectively.
For surfaces inside patients’ rooms (excluding floors), the prevalence rate was 16 percent. These surfaces included fan buttons, keyboards, and door handles.
The surface samples had a much lower concentration of coronavirus than the samples actually taken from the patients using a classic nasal swab and stool analysis. These lower concentrations indicate that the coronavirus present on the surfaces of the hospital room was less likely to infect anyone compared to the coronavirus particles that were spread from the patient.
Indeed, the study found no surface-transmitted coronavirus infections. Throughout the study, no observed health care professionals gave positive results, despite caring for COVID patients and collecting their samples. This suggests that personal protective equipment and safety training do reduce the risk of transmission for health care workers.