Researchers at the CSIRO have announced that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 28 days on surfaces like smartphones, banknotes, glass and stainless steel.
The announcement comes after the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) teamed up with the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) to study just how long COVID-19 can survive on common surfaces like smartphones and bank notes.
Their results were published in the Virology Journal, and showed that the virus survives significantly longer in lower temperatures, and was able to thrive on smooth surfaces like vinyl, stainless steel and glass compared to porous textures.
The researchers say that SARS-CoV-2, the strain of virus that produces the COVID-19 virus, is able to survive for up to 28 days on the surface of a smartphone, laptop screen or steel surface, signalling that more protections might be needed to further curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Chief Executive at the CSIRO, Dr Larry Marshall has said that “establishing how long the virus really remains visible on surfaces enables us to more accurately predict and mitigate its spread, and do a better job of protecting our people.”
The team took samples of the virus and laid them out on a number of different surfaces that were exposed to a range of different temperature and humidity environments to determine how long the virus would survive in different circumstances.
Dr Debbie Eagles, Deputy Director of the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness has said that “our results show that SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious on surfaces for long periods of time, reinforcing the need for good practices such as regular hand washing and cleaning surfaces.”
“While the precise role of surface transmission, the degree of surface contact and the amount of virus required for infection is yet to be determined, establishing how long this virus remains viable on surfaces is critical for developing risk mitigation strategies in high contact areas,” she said.
“At 20 degrees Celsius, which is about room temperature, we found that the virus was extremely robust, surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and plastic banknotes,” Eagles said.
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“For context, similar experiments for Influenza A have found that it survived on surfaces for 17 days, which highlights just how resilient SARS-CoV-2 is.”
Eagles continued to explain that “together, we hope this suite of solutions from science will break down the barriers between us, and shift focus to dealing with the specific virus hotspots so we can get the economy back on track.”
Director of the ACDP, Professor Trevor Drew added to this by stating that a number of virus strains are able to survive on a surface without a host. “How long they can survive and remain infectious depends on the type of virus, quantity, the surface, environmental conditions and how it’s deposited – for example touch vs droplets emitted by coughing.”
“Proteins and fats in body fluids can also significantly increase virus survival times,” Professor Drew added, stating that “the research may also help to explain the apparent persistence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in cool environments with high lipid or protein contamination, such as meat processing facilities and how we might better address the risk.”
The CSIRO, along with the Australian Department of Defence is working collectively with the 5 Nation Research and Development (5RD) Council, which shares critical findings between Australian, American, Canadian, UK and New Zealand research teams.