How tough is the coronavirus?
A group of French scientists at the University of Aix-Marseille found that the virus can withstand exposure to temperatures at least as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit, The Hill reported Sunday. Although unverified, the finding appears to suggest that changes in the weather may not reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
In their study, the researchers note that there have been “few studies on the inactivation protocols aiming at mitigating the risk of exposure” of coronaviruses. The researchers used kidney cells from African green monkeys that were infected with the novel coronavirus to study how to appropriately inactivate the virus in a laboratory.
They found that the virus wasn’t killed off until sustained exposure, for 15 minutes, of up to 197 degrees Fahrenheit, The Hill reported. That’s higher than the 140-degree temperature that is ordinarily sufficient to disinfect laboratories, The Jerusalem Post notes.
However, the researchers also noted that lower temperatures are probably enough to kill the virus in samples with lower loads — and patients have lower loads, the New York Post reported, “even at the acute stage of the disease,” the researchers said.
They recommended using chemicals to deactivate high-load samples of the virus in a laboratory.
“Since clinical samples collected in COVID-19 suspect patients are commonly manipulated in BSL-2 laboratories, the results presented in this study should help to choose the best-suited protocol for inactivation in order to prevent exposure of laboratory personnel in charge of direct and indirect detection of SARS-CoV-2 for diagnostic purpose,” the researchers concluded.
How tenacious is the virus?
There is no vaccine or cure for the coronavirus, and many unknowns about it have continued to raise concern. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the public face of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response, has warned that the virus could recur seasonally.
“You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing. If we get some help from the weather, so be it, fine. But I don’t think we need to assume that,” he told Good Morning America recently, according to Fox News.
The new research out of France comes as a letter from the National Academy of Sciences this week commented on how temperature may affect the virus. The letter cast doubt on the impact.
“There is some evidence to suggest that [the coronavirus] may transmit less efficiently in environments with higher ambient temperature and humidity; however, given the lack of host immunity globally, this reduction in transmission efficiency may not lead to a significant reduction in disease spread without the concomitant adoption of major public health interventions,” the academy wrote, according to The Hill.
Significantly, this new research hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet.