GEELONG, Victoria, Australia, October 13, 2020 (ENS) – The virus responsible for COVID-19 can survive for up to 28 days on common surfaces including banknotes, glass items such as cellphone screens, and stainless steel.

Researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, have found that the virus SARS-CoV-2, tended to survive longer on non-porous or smooth surfaces such as glass, stainless steel, and vinyl, compared to porous complex surfaces such as cotton.

The virus survived longer at lower temperatures rather than higher ones.

And the virus survived longer on paper banknotes than on plastic banknotes.

CSIRO

Droplets of SARS-CoV-2 in artificial mucous are applied to test surfaces. The work is being done in secure Biosecurity Level 4 laboratories at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, Geelong, Australia. (Photo © CSIRO Australia, used with permission)

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr. Larry Marshall said, “Establishing how long the virus really remains viable on surfaces enables us to more accurately predict and mitigate its spread, and do a better job of protecting our people.”

Conducted in highly secure Biosecurity Level 4 laboratories at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) in Geelong, the study, “The effect of temperature on persistence of SARS-CoV-2 on common surfaces,” was published October 7 in “Virology Journal.”

Co-author Dr. Debbie Eagles is deputy director of the ACDP, which has been working on understanding the virus and testing a potential vaccine.

“Our results show that SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious on surfaces for long periods of time, reinforcing the need for good practices such as regular handwashing and cleaning surfaces,” Dr. Eagles said.

“At 20 degrees Celsius, which is about room temperature, we found that the virus was extremely robust, surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and plastic banknotes.“ For context, similar experiments for Influenza A have found that it survived on surfaces for 17 days, which highlights just how resilient SARS-CoV-2 is.”

The research involved drying virus in an artificial mucus on different surfaces, at concentrations similar to those reported in samples from infected patients, and then re-isolating the virus over a month. Further experiments were carried out at 30 and 40 degrees Celsius, with survival times decreasing as the temperature increased.

The study was carried out in the dark, to remove the effect of UV light as research has demonstrated direct sunlight can rapidly inactivate the virus.

“While the precise role of surface transmission, the degree of surface contact and the amount of virus required for infection is yet to be determined, establishing how long this virus remains viable on surfaces is critical for developing risk mitigation strategies in high contact areas,” Dr. Eagles said.

Co-author and ACDP Director Professor Trevor Drew said many viruses remain viable on surfaces outside their host.

droplet

A droplet of SARS-CoV-2 in artificial mucous on glass, Geelong, Australia (Photo © CSIRO , used with permission)

“How long they can survive and remain infectious depends on the type of virus, quantity, the surface, environmental conditions and how it’s deposited – for example touch vs droplets emitted by coughing,” he said.

“Proteins and fats in body fluids can also significantly increase virus survival times,” Drew said.

“The research may also help to explain the apparent persistence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in cool environments with high lipid or protein contamination, such as meat processing facilities and how we might better address that risk,” he suggested.

CSIRO, in partnership with the Australian Department of Defence, undertook the studies in collaboration with the 5 Nation Research and Development  Council. This multilateral forum informs and coordinates public safety and security to expand research and development capacity and deliver more efficient and cost-effective access to results across the five countries.

The Council includes representatives from the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Each country is conducting research on different aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus survivability with the results shared as they become available.

Dr. Eagles said, “Together, we hope this suite of solutions from science will break down the barriers between us, and shift focus to dealing with specific virus hotspots so we can get the economy back on track.”

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