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      Longitudinal Monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 RNA on High-Touch Surfaces in a Community Setting

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          Abstract

          Environmental surveillance of surface contamination is an unexplored tool for understanding transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in community settings. We conducted longitudinal swab sampling of high-touch non-porous surfaces in a Massachusetts town during a COVID-19 outbreak from April to June 2020. Twenty-nine of 348 (8.3%) surface samples were positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA, including crosswalk buttons, trash can handles, and door handles of essential business entrances (grocery store, liquor store, bank, and gas station). The estimated risk of infection from touching a contaminated surface was low (less than 5 in 10,000) by quantitative microbial risk assessment, suggesting fomites play a minimal role in SARS-CoV-2 community transmission. The weekly percentage of positive samples (out of n = 33 unique surfaces per week) best predicted variation in city-level COVID-19 cases with a 7-day lead time. Environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 RNA on high-touch surfaces may be a useful tool to provide early warning of COVID-19 case trends.

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          Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1

          To the Editor: A novel human coronavirus that is now named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (formerly called HCoV-19) emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 and is now causing a pandemic. 1 We analyzed the aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 and compared it with SARS-CoV-1, the most closely related human coronavirus. 2 We evaluated the stability of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 in aerosols and on various surfaces and estimated their decay rates using a Bayesian regression model (see the Methods section in the Supplementary Appendix, available with the full text of this letter at NEJM.org). SARS-CoV-2 nCoV-WA1-2020 (MN985325.1) and SARS-CoV-1 Tor2 (AY274119.3) were the strains used. Aerosols (<5 μm) containing SARS-CoV-2 (105.25 50% tissue-culture infectious dose [TCID50] per milliliter) or SARS-CoV-1 (106.75-7.00 TCID50 per milliliter) were generated with the use of a three-jet Collison nebulizer and fed into a Goldberg drum to create an aerosolized environment. The inoculum resulted in cycle-threshold values between 20 and 22, similar to those observed in samples obtained from the upper and lower respiratory tract in humans. Our data consisted of 10 experimental conditions involving two viruses (SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1) in five environmental conditions (aerosols, plastic, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard). All experimental measurements are reported as means across three replicates. SARS-CoV-2 remained viable in aerosols throughout the duration of our experiment (3 hours), with a reduction in infectious titer from 103.5 to 102.7 TCID50 per liter of air. This reduction was similar to that observed with SARS-CoV-1, from 104.3 to 103.5 TCID50 per milliliter (Figure 1A). SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to these surfaces (Figure 1A), although the virus titer was greatly reduced (from 103.7 to 100.6 TCID50 per milliliter of medium after 72 hours on plastic and from 103.7 to 100.6 TCID50 per milliliter after 48 hours on stainless steel). The stability kinetics of SARS-CoV-1 were similar (from 103.4 to 100.7 TCID50 per milliliter after 72 hours on plastic and from 103.6 to 100.6 TCID50 per milliliter after 48 hours on stainless steel). On copper, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 4 hours and no viable SARS-CoV-1 was measured after 8 hours. On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 24 hours and no viable SARS-CoV-1 was measured after 8 hours (Figure 1A). Both viruses had an exponential decay in virus titer across all experimental conditions, as indicated by a linear decrease in the log10TCID50 per liter of air or milliliter of medium over time (Figure 1B). The half-lives of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 were similar in aerosols, with median estimates of approximately 1.1 to 1.2 hours and 95% credible intervals of 0.64 to 2.64 for SARS-CoV-2 and 0.78 to 2.43 for SARS-CoV-1 (Figure 1C, and Table S1 in the Supplementary Appendix). The half-lives of the two viruses were also similar on copper. On cardboard, the half-life of SARS-CoV-2 was longer than that of SARS-CoV-1. The longest viability of both viruses was on stainless steel and plastic; the estimated median half-life of SARS-CoV-2 was approximately 5.6 hours on stainless steel and 6.8 hours on plastic (Figure 1C). Estimated differences in the half-lives of the two viruses were small except for those on cardboard (Figure 1C). Individual replicate data were noticeably “noisier” (i.e., there was more variation in the experiment, resulting in a larger standard error) for cardboard than for other surfaces (Fig. S1 through S5), so we advise caution in interpreting this result. We found that the stability of SARS-CoV-2 was similar to that of SARS-CoV-1 under the experimental circumstances tested. This indicates that differences in the epidemiologic characteristics of these viruses probably arise from other factors, including high viral loads in the upper respiratory tract and the potential for persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 to shed and transmit the virus while asymptomatic. 3,4 Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is plausible, since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours and on surfaces up to days (depending on the inoculum shed). These findings echo those with SARS-CoV-1, in which these forms of transmission were associated with nosocomial spread and super-spreading events, 5 and they provide information for pandemic mitigation efforts.
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            Virological assessment of hospitalized patients with COVID-2019

            Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an acute infection of the respiratory tract that emerged in late 20191,2. Initial outbreaks in China involved 13.8% of cases with severe courses, and 6.1% of cases with critical courses3. This severe presentation may result from the virus using a virus receptor that is expressed predominantly in the lung2,4; the same receptor tropism is thought to have determined the pathogenicity-but also aided in the control-of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 20035. However, there are reports of cases of COVID-19 in which the patient shows mild upper respiratory tract symptoms, which suggests the potential for pre- or oligosymptomatic transmission6-8. There is an urgent need for information on virus replication, immunity and infectivity in specific sites of the body. Here we report a detailed virological analysis of nine cases of COVID-19 that provides proof of active virus replication in tissues of the upper respiratory tract. Pharyngeal virus shedding was very high during the first week of symptoms, with a peak at 7.11 × 108 RNA copies per throat swab on day 4. Infectious virus was readily isolated from samples derived from the throat or lung, but not from stool samples-in spite of high concentrations of virus RNA. Blood and urine samples never yielded virus. Active replication in the throat was confirmed by the presence of viral replicative RNA intermediates in the throat samples. We consistently detected sequence-distinct virus populations in throat and lung samples from one patient, proving independent replication. The shedding of viral RNA from sputum outlasted the end of symptoms. Seroconversion occurred after 7 days in 50% of patients (and by day 14 in all patients), but was not followed by a rapid decline in viral load. COVID-19 can present as a mild illness of the upper respiratory tract. The confirmation of active virus replication in the upper respiratory tract has implications for the containment of COVID-19.
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              Detection of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) by real-time RT-PCR

              Background The ongoing outbreak of the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) poses a challenge for public health laboratories as virus isolates are unavailable while there is growing evidence that the outbreak is more widespread than initially thought, and international spread through travellers does already occur. Aim We aimed to develop and deploy robust diagnostic methodology for use in public health laboratory settings without having virus material available. Methods Here we present a validated diagnostic workflow for 2019-nCoV, its design relying on close genetic relatedness of 2019-nCoV with SARS coronavirus, making use of synthetic nucleic acid technology. Results The workflow reliably detects 2019-nCoV, and further discriminates 2019-nCoV from SARS-CoV. Through coordination between academic and public laboratories, we confirmed assay exclusivity based on 297 original clinical specimens containing a full spectrum of human respiratory viruses. Control material is made available through European Virus Archive – Global (EVAg), a European Union infrastructure project. Conclusion The present study demonstrates the enormous response capacity achieved through coordination of academic and public laboratories in national and European research networks.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Environ Sci Technol Lett
                Environ Sci Technol Lett
                ez
                estlcu
                Environmental Science & Technology Letters
                American Chemical Society
                2328-8930
                14 December 2020
                09 February 2021
                : 8
                : 2
                : 168-175
                Affiliations
                []Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts University , Medford, Massachusetts 02155, United States
                []Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London , London SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom
                [§ ]Eawag , Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dubendorf CH-8600, Switzerland
                []Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute , Basel CH-4051, Switzerland
                []University of Basel , Basel CH-4055, Switzerland
                [# ]Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California , Berkeley, California 94720, United States
                Author notes
                Article
                10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00875
                7927285
                © 2020 American Chemical Society

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted RESEARCH re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

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