A study published by the University of Bristol on Tuesday showed that the coronavirus loses a majority of its ability to infect people after being in the air for five minutes.
According to the university’s Aerosol Research Centre, which conducted simulations of the virus’s survivability in recycled air, 90% of its strength is lost within five minutes of being airborne, so making it not as potent or deadly as it is in its current form.
With increased time in the air, there is further loss of infectivity in the virus, a statement by the center noted.
It is understood that the virus is spread through droplets and aerosols produced in the lungs. Biologists at the university, however, developed a mechanism that allows for an accurate simulation of how long the virus can survive when it is in the air.
The study indicated that as COVID particles leave the lungs that are warm, moist, and rich in carbon dioxide, they begin to rapidly dehydrate and lose water once they come into contact with air which is far richer in oxygen than in carbon dioxide. The loss of moisture disrupts its ability to infect human cells.
The results of the study showed the usefulness of social distancing rules and mask use mandates in preventing the transmission of the virus. Researchers at the university emphasized the dangers of poorly ventilated and small spaces where the risk of transmission is at its highest.
“People have been focused on poorly ventilated spaces and thinking about airborne transmission over metres or across a room. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but I think still, the greatest risk of exposure is when you’re close to someone,” Dr. Jonathan Reid, the author of the study said.
“When you move further away, not only is the aerosol diluted down, there’s also less infectious virus because the virus has lost infectivity as a result of time,” Reid added.
A study by Imperial College London on Monday showed that T cells produced by the body as an immune response to the common cold provide significant protection against the coronavirus and that people recovering from regular flu are better protected from COVID-19.
Despite the positive results of the study, scientists have stressed the significance of vaccines as well as the observance of measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.