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COVID-19 Has Revealed Critical Knowledge Gaps on the Transmission of Respiratory Viruses

Rendering of mutating virus cells. Credit score: istock.com/wildpixel

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed vital data gaps and assumptions regarding how respiratory viruses unfold between hosts.

Historically regarded as unfold primarily by giant respiratory droplets produced by the coughs and sneezes of sick people, a rising physique of proof signifies that many respiratory pathogens – together with SARS-CoV-2– unfold by virus-laden microscopic respiratory aerosols. On this Evaluate, Chia Wang and colleagues focus on the current analysis concerning airborne transmission of respiratory viruses and the way an improved understanding of aerosol transmission will permit for better-informed controls to scale back and mitigate airborne transmission.

Till lately, most respiratory pathogens have been assumed to unfold by giant droplets expirated from an infectious individual or transferred from contaminated surfaces. This understanding has largely guided public well being suggestions in mitigating viral unfold. Nevertheless, a number of respiratory pathogens, together with influenza and the widespread chilly, are additionally recognized to unfold by infectious respiratory aerosols, which might float and journey in air flows at far larger distances and for for much longer, infecting those who inhale them.

Phases concerned in airborne transmission of respiratory viruses. Credit score: From Wang et al., ‘Airborne transmission of respiratory viruses’ (https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abd9149). N.CARY/SCIENCE

In line with a rising physique of proof, a lot of which was gained from finding out the unfold of COVID-19, airborne transmission could also be a extra dominant mode of respiratory virus transmission than beforehand thought.

Right here, Wang et al. spotlight how infectious aerosols are generated, journey all through an setting and ship their viral payloads to hosts. The authors additionally define methods to mitigate aerosol transmission at lengthy and brief ranges, together with enhancements to air flow and airflows, air filtration, UV disinfection and private face masks match and design.

For extra on this analysis, see It’s Not Just COVID-19: Most Respiratory Viruses Actually Spread by Aerosols.

Reference: “Airborne transmission of respiratory viruses” by Kimberly A. Prather, Josué Sznitman, Jose L. Jimenez, Seema S. Lakdawala, Zeynep Tufekci and Linsey C. Marr, 27 August 2021, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd9149

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