NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A Tulane study, which shows that coronavirus particles can remain airborne for up to 16 hours, has now been peer reviewed and is helping to fuel a worldwide discussion on how the virus is spread. The study comes out as health experts around the world push for a rethinking of previous advisories.
A new Tulane study, done with the help of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Army, and the University of Pittsburgh, sheds new light on the potency of coronavirus in the air that we breathe.
“What we found was there was residual infectivity in those particles that were aged up to 16 hours,” said lead Tulane researcher, Chad Roy, PhD.
The study, conducted under secure conditions at Covington's Tulane primate center, has now been published after undergoing the extensive peer review process.
Scientists conducted the study using coronavirus particles in aerosols measured in a controlled, unlit chamber at room temperature.
“The first thing we did was took this virus and artificially aerosolized it in a particle size that would be consistent with respirability about 2 microns in size,” said Roy.
The findings that coronavirus particles, suspended in the air, could remain infective for up to 16 hours, surprised many.
"For it to remain potentially infectious that long is surprising," said health educator Eric Griggs, MD.
Up to now, the world health organization has said the virus is spread from human to human, minimizing the impact of coronavirus being spread through tiny particles that hang in the air for an extensive period of time.
But this new research, coupled with other findings, has more than 239 health experts across the globe, asking for a re-thinking of that position.
Those health experts have written an open letter to the science community. They say it may be time to take a new look at preventative measures, to minimize the possibility of airborne transmission.
“These aerosolized droplets can be in the air for 16 hours, which means you can walk through them,” said Griggs.
Though some believe airborne transmission of coronavirus may have caused recent super spreader events, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says further studies are needed before definitive conclusions are reached.
“I don’t think there will be a knee-jerk response; it is something they will debate,” said Dr. Griggs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet responded to the request to change its advisories, but when it comes to new studies, one of Tulane’s leading researchers says they’re underway.
“We’re looking at bigger studies into longer-term suspensions and we can change particle size,” said Dr. Roy.
While health educator, Dr. Griggs, says the new Tulane study plays up the need to continue social distancing and wearing face masks, he says that’s still the best way to control the spread of the virus.