Coronavirus: the virus detected on air pollution particles

Published by Manon C. · Published on 27 April 2020 at 11h54 · Updated on 27 April 2020 at 12h49
Italian scientists have found a gene highly specific to coronavirus in sample of polluted air, collected at an industrial site in norther Italy.

Italian scientists revealed, in a study shared by British newspaper The Guardian last week, they found coronavirus on air pollution particles. It’s the third study group that comes to such a conclusion since the world coronavirus epidemic broke out. The question is now to figure out if pollution can carry the virus and contaminate people.

The preliminary step of the Italian scientists’ work – that is just beginning – is to know if coronavirus can indeed survive on pollution fine particles and if it does, if it is present in sufficient quantity to infect one or several people.

In fine, the goal is to understand if pollution could help coronavirus travel further or not and if it can be spread more easily and then, infect more people, in order to fix the fight if need be.

Scientists have collected air pollution samples on an industrial site near Bergamo, Lombardy, an Italian region that has been very badly hit by the coronavirus epidemic. They managed to identify the gene highly specific to coronavirus in several of their samples; presence then confirmed by blind testing in an independent laboratory.

I am a scientist and I am worried when I don’t know,” Leonardo Setti at the University of Bologna in Italy, who led the work said. “If we know, we can find a solution. But if we don’t know, we can only suffer the consequences.”

Several viruses, such as avian flu and measles, proved in the past their capacity to travel easily and further thanks to air pollution, leading to higher rates of infection.

A discovery that could explain the very high rate of infection in industrialized parts of northern Italy in comparison with more rural Italian regions.


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