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Surface Detection of SARS-CoV-2 

Approximately 0.1 μm in diameter, or one 10 millionth of a meter. That’s the size of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Given that we can’t see it due to its microscopic size, it’s important to understand whether the virus may survive on surfaces and whether it can be detected there by traditional diagnostic methods. If detected, steps can then be taken to eliminate the virus from the surface.  

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in humans is primarily by respiratory droplets, occurring when an uninfected individual is in close proximity (within six feet) of an infected host that is shedding virus in this manner.

Environmental surfaces may become contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 by infected hosts, although infection via contact with contaminated surfaces is not thought to be as prevalent as direct person-to-person transmission from aerosolized respiratory droplets.

To learn whether a PCR test was effective at detecting the virus on a surface – thus meaning that these surfaces cold pose a health risk – we tested a Real-Time RT-PCR diagnostic assay for the detection of dried SARS-CoV-2 contamination present on nonporous surfaces.

A test grid of 20 2” x 2” sections was marked on a stainless-steel plate, with a small volume of SARS-CoV-2 in solution then inoculated on each, and then allowed to dry overnight. Using foam swabs, we then attempted to recover dried SARS-CoV-2 from each of the sections. These swabs were assessed using RNA extraction and then tested, using the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel.

Using this method, it was determined that all 20 sections inoculated also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. This finding shows that RT-PCR assays can be used to detect SARS-CoV-2 contamination of solid surfaces or to demonstrate the efficacy of cleaning or decontamination procedures in those same areas.

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