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At present, there is still some controversy about the role that the coronavirus present in aerosols plays in the transmission of COVID-19. Now a team of American scientists has found "viable" viruses in the air of a hospital room, almost 5 meters from a patient .
The results of this research are published in the repository of scientific articles medRxiv , in which the texts have not yet been submitted to review by other experts (which is done in scientific journals). Those responsible for this study are researchers from the University of Florida .
To reach their conclusions, the scientists collected air samples from a hospital room with two COVID-19 patients , one of whom had an active respiratory infection.
The samples were analyzed in the laboratory (the genome of the virus collected in the air and of the virus isolated in a cell culture was sequenced). According to the results, the "viable" coronavirus could be isolated from samples collected at a distance of between two meters and 4.8 meters from the patient, a space that goes beyond current social distancing recommendations.
In addition, the genome sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 strain isolated from the collected material was identical to that isolated from the patient with active infection, the authors of this work claim.
Therefore, they add, patients with respiratory manifestations of COVID-19 produce aerosols (suspension of minute particles in the air) that contain "viable" coronavirus and these aerosols can serve as a source of transmission of the virus .
According to the signatories, taking into account the transmission by aerosols, the distance measures of almost two meters would not be useful in a closed environment and could provide a false sense of security.
The public health implications, they note, are "broad," especially since current best practices to limit the spread of COVID-19 focus on social distancing, the use of masks and hand washing.
In this sense, they believe that with the current outbreaks, and to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic, "clear guidance" on control measures against aerosols would be needed.
For the biochemist José Manuel Bautista , this work shows that the coronavirus is infectious from the hospital air of people infected by COVID-19.
"The airway plays an important role in community transmission," says this professor of molecular biology at the Complutense University of Madrid on his Twitter account.
Bautista, who does not sign this article, summarizes that these findings represent one more piece: the virus in polluted air can infect cells.
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