In a significant find, researchers now report that the novel coronavirus can survive in the air for hours in fine particles known as aerosols, and can spread quickly like SARS.
This turns the earlier thinking right on its head that coronavirus only spreads from surface and is not present in the air, especially near health care settings and hospitals.
Researchers found that COVID-19 can be detected up to 3 hours after aerosolization and can infect cells throughout that time period, reports Live Science.
However, the study, posted on the preprint database medRxiv, is still preliminary, because it has not undergone extensive peer-review.
"The authors did receive comments from one prospective scientific journal, and posted an updated version of the study on March 13 reflecting the revisions," said the report.
"We still don't know how high a concentration of viable SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) s needed in practice to infect a human being, though this is something we are looking to model in the future," study co-author Dylan Morris from Princeton University, told Live Science.
Aerosols can potentially travel across far greater distances.
In the current study, the researchers did not examine how far SARS-CoV-2 could conceivably travel through the air.
"More important, even if aerosol transmission can occur, it's unlikely to be the primary force driving the current pandemic," Morris said.
The current scientific consensus is that most new coronavirus transmission are via respiratory secretions in the form of large respiratory droplets on surface.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can last on surfaces potentially several hours, or even days, according to another preprint published by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, Princeton, and the University of California, Los Angeles. (IANS)