Coronavirus has been under severe scrutiny, whether it could be airborne or not, but scientists have detected the new virus on particles of air pollution. Italian scientists, using standard techniques by collecting outdoor air pollution samples at urban and industrial sites each in the Bergamo province have identified the gene that is highly specific to SARS-Cov-2 in many samples. The results were published on Friday in the preprint medRxiv, and haven't been peer-reviewed.
However, it is not yet found that if the virus pollution particles cause COVID-19. Further research is needed on this preliminary work. To note the fact that air pollution has been decreasing since the lockdown measures were undertaken.
Leonardo Setti, a researcher from the University of Bologna, Italy, said it was of importance to investigate if the novel coronavirus could be widely carried by air pollution. As he is a scientist he felt worried when he didn't know things. "If we know, we can find a solution. But if we don't know, we can only suffer the consequences," he added as reported by The Guardian.
Explains higher infections?
To add to this there are other research papers suggesting that particles of air pollution may aid coronavirus to travel more in the air. A paper hypothesized, "SARS virus and other respiratory diseases such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) find fertile 'territory' in air pollutant particles and, in a linear relationship, they survive longer and become more aggressive in an immune system already aggravated by these harmful substances"
Further analysis in the research pointed out that higher levels of particle pollution might explain the higher infection rates in some parts of northern Italy, before the lockdown. The same region as found by another preliminary study, to be one of the most polluted in Europe. It is a known fact that pollution particles contain microbes and known to have likely carried bird flu virus, measles and also FMD (foot and mouth disease) to significant distances.
Large droplets carrying the virus wither by coughs or sneezes fall on the ground within one to two metres, smaller droplets that are less than five microns in diameter, could remain in the air for hours and also travel. The SARS-CoV-2 is known to behave similarly. Researchers warn that the role of pollution particles in coronavirus transmission must not be ruled out without any evidence.
Jonathan Reid from Bristol University, the UK researching the subject said that the coronavirus was detected in tiny droplets collected in China's indoors. He called such pollution particles as micro-aeroplanes while passengers were the droplets.
Experts say that it might take two to three years to confirm these findings as per the scientific methods. However, it is worth noting that exposure to dirty air for longer durations would damage lung health, making one more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.