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Microbiome ; 9(1): 25, 2021 01 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1043251


BACKGROUND: Determining the role of fomites in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is essential in the hospital setting and will likely be important outside of medical facilities as governments around the world make plans to ease COVID-19 public health restrictions and attempt to safely reopen economies. Expanding COVID-19 testing to include environmental surfaces would ideally be performed with inexpensive swabs that could be transported safely without concern of being a source of new infections. However, CDC-approved clinical-grade sampling supplies and techniques using a synthetic swab are expensive, potentially expose laboratory workers to viable virus and prohibit analysis of the microbiome due to the presence of antibiotics in viral transport media (VTM). To this end, we performed a series of experiments comparing the diagnostic yield using five consumer-grade swabs (including plastic and wood shafts and various head materials including cotton, synthetic, and foam) and one clinical-grade swab for inhibition to RNA. For three of these swabs, we evaluated performance to detect SARS-CoV-2 in twenty intensive care unit (ICU) hospital rooms of patients including COVID-19+ patients. All swabs were placed in 95% ethanol and further evaluated in terms of RNase activity. SARS-CoV-2 was measured both directly from the swab and from the swab eluent. RESULTS: Compared to samples collected in VTM, 95% ethanol demonstrated significant inhibition properties against RNases. When extracting directly from the swab head as opposed to the eluent, RNA recovery was approximately 2-4× higher from all six swab types tested as compared to the clinical standard of testing the eluent from a CDC-approved synthetic (SYN) swab. The limit of detection (LoD) of SARS-CoV-2 from floor samples collected using the consumer-grade plastic (CGp) or research-grade plastic The Microsetta Initiative (TMI) swabs was similar or better than the SYN swab, further suggesting that swab type does not impact RNA recovery as measured by the abundance of SARS-CoV-2. The LoD for TMI was between 0 and 362.5 viral particles, while SYN and CGp were both between 725 and 1450 particles. Lastly microbiome analyses (16S rRNA gene sequencing) of paired samples (nasal and floor from same patient room) collected using different swab types in triplicate indicated that microbial communities were not impacted by swab type, but instead driven by the patient and sample type. CONCLUSIONS: Compared to using a clinical-grade synthetic swab, detection of SARS-CoV-2 from environmental samples collected from ICU rooms of patients with COVID was similar using consumer-grade swabs, stored in 95% ethanol. The yield was best from the swab head rather than the eluent and the low level of RNase activity and lack of antibiotics in these samples makes it possible to perform concomitant microbiome analyses. Video abstract.

COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing/instrumentation , COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing/methods , Microbiota , RNA, Viral/analysis , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Specimen Handling/methods , Biological Transport , Ethanol/chemistry , Feasibility Studies , Humans , Intensive Care Units , Limit of Detection , RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics , RNA, Viral/genetics , Ribonucleases/metabolism
mSystems ; 5(6)2020 Oct 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-894830


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and potential public health implications, we are publishing this peer-reviewed manuscript in its accepted form. The final, copyedited version of the paper will be available at a later date. Although SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted by respiratory droplets and aerosols, transmission by fomites remains plausible. During Halloween, a major event for children in numerous countries, SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk via candy fomites worries many parents. To address this concern, we enrolled 10 recently diagnosed asymptomatic or mildly/moderately symptomatic COVID-19 patients to handle typical Halloween candy (pieces individually wrapped) under three conditions: normal handling with unwashed hands, deliberate coughing and extensive touching, and normal handling following handwashing. We then used a factorial design to subject the candies to two post-handling treatments: no washing (untreated) and household dishwashing detergent. We measured SARS-CoV-2 load by RT-qPCR and LAMP. From the candies not washed post-handling, we detected SARS-CoV-2 on 60% of candies that were deliberately coughed on, 60% of candies normally handled with unwashed hands, but only 10% of candies handled after hand washing. We found that treating candy with dishwashing detergent reduced SARS-CoV-2 load by 62.1% in comparison to untreated candy. Taken together, these results suggest that although the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by fomites is low even from known COVID-19 patients, viral RNA load can be reduced to near zero by the combination of handwashing by the infected patient and ≥1 minute detergent treatment after collection. We also found that the inexpensive and fast LAMP protocol was more than 80% concordant with RT-qPCR.IMPORTANCE The COVID-19 pandemic is leading to important tradeoffs between risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and mental health due to deprivation from normal activities, with these impacts being especially profound in children. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Halloween activities will be curtailed as a result of the concern that candy from strangers might act as fomites. Here we demonstrate that these risks can be mitigated by ensuring that prior to handling candy, the candy giver washes their hands, and by washing collected candy with household dishwashing detergent. Even in the most extreme case, with candy deliberately coughed on by known COVID-19 patients, viral load was reduced dramatically after washing with household detergent. We conclude that with reasonable precautions, even if followed only by either the candy giver or the candy recipient, the risk of viral transmission by this route is very low.