The Guardian. April 24, 2020 Damian Carrington, Environmental Editor
Exclusive: Scientists examine whether this route enables infections at longer distances
Coronavirus has been detected on particles of air pollution by scientists investigating whether this could enable it to be carried over longer distances and increase the number of people infected.
The work is preliminary and it is not yet known if the virus remains viable on pollution particles and in sufficient quantity to cause disease.
The Italian scientists used standard techniques to collect outdoor air pollution samples at one urban and one industrial site in Bergamo province and identified a gene highly specific to Covid-19 in multiple samples. The detection was confirmed by blind testing at an independent laboratory.
Leonardo Setti at the University of Bologna in Italy, who led the work, said it was important to investigate if the virus could be carried more widely by air pollution.
“I am a scientist and I am worried when I don’t know,” he said. “If we know, we can find a solution. But if we don’t know, we can only suffer the consequences.”
A statistical analysis by Setti’s team suggests higher levels of particle pollution could explain higher rates of infection in parts of northern Italy before a lockdown was imposed, an idea supported by another preliminary analysis. The region is one of the most polluted in Europe.