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article imageCOVID-19: Why surfaces still present a contamination vector

By Tim Sandle     Jul 1, 2020 in Science
This week has seen some interesting COVID-19 related research published. This includes an association with surfaces from a hospital outbreak and a new project to look at how easily the virus can be tracked through testing samples of wastewater.
Surfaces continue to pose a transmission risk
Much of the attention about the novel coronavirus centers on transmission via the air, through expelled droplets, primarily via people coughing and sneezing (with less certainty about aerosol transmission). This does not mean that the risk of surface transmission should be negated.
A report titled “Report into a nosocomial outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at Netcare St. Augustine’s Hospital“, provides a detailed assessment into an outbreak at a hospital in South Africa.
In the report, the researchers see fomite (surface) transmission as key to enabling the virus to have spread throughout the hospital, from one carrier:
"The spatial distribution of cases and exposed individuals who became infected on the wards suggests that the indirect contact via health care workers or fomite transmission were the predominant modes of transmission between patients in this outbreak."
The paper at least affirms that the transmission dynamics of this virus and complex and multiple.
Assessing wastewater for viral evidence
In related news, a global collaboration has been set up to look at the usefulness of wastewater sampling for evidence of SARS-CoV-2. a website titled “Wastewater-Based Epidemiology: Global Collaborative to Maximize Contributions in the Fight Against COVID-19“, explains the methodology that will be adopted. The website also summarizes the current level of knowledge on wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 and describes the future plans for assessing viral spread through an examination of wastewater.
New vaccine candidate
The biotechnology company Vaxart has declared that its oral COVID-19 vaccine has been chosen to participate in a non-human primate challenge (as PharmTech reports). The U.S. firm will be taking part in the program called Operation Warp Speed. this program, drawing on Star Trek for its project name (a name apparently dreamed up by Donald Trump), is a U.S. wide study which is working to provide quantities of COVID-19 vaccines by January 2021.
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