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Viruses ; 14(1)2021 12 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1580412


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a highly transmissible RNA virus that causes COVID-19. Being aware of the presence of the virus on different types of surfaces and in different environments, and having a protocol for its detection, is important to understand the dynamics of the virus and its shedding patterns. In Ecuador, the detection of viral RNA in urban environmental samples has not been a priority. The present study analyzed samples from two densely populated neighborhoods and one public transportation system in Quito, Ecuador. Viral RNA presence was assessed using RT-LAMP. Twenty-eight out of 300 surfaces tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA (9.33%). Frequently touched surfaces, especially in indoor spaces and on public transportation, were most likely to be positive for viral RNA. Positivity rate association for the two neighborhoods and for the surface type was not found. This study found viral RNA presence on urban surfaces; this information provides an insight into viral dissemination dynamics. Monitoring environmental SARS-CoV-2 could support the public health prevention strategies in Quito, Ecuador.

Environmental Microbiology , RNA, Viral/isolation & purification , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Transportation , COVID-19/transmission , Cities , Ecuador , Humans , Molecular Diagnostic Techniques , Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques , RNA, Viral/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
J Vis Exp ; (170)2021 04 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1202279


To control community transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) during the 2020 global pandemic, most countries implemented strategies based on direct human testing, face covering, and surface disinfection. Under the assumption that the main route of transmission includes aerosols and respiratory droplets, efforts to detect SARS-CoV-2 in fomites have focused on locations suspected of high prevalence (e.g., hospital wards, cruise ships, and mass transportation systems). To investigate the presence of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces in the urban environment that are rarely cleaned and seldomly disinfected, 350 citizens were enlisted from the greater San Diego County. In total, these citizen scientists collected 4,080 samples. An online platform was developed to monitor sampling kit delivery and pickup, as well as to collect sample data. The sampling kits were mostly built from supplies available in pandemic-stressed stores. Samples were processed using reagents that were easy to access despite the recurrent supply shortage. The methods used were highly sensitive and resistant to inhibitors that are commonly present in environmental samples. The proposed experimental design and processing methods were successful at engaging numerous citizen scientists who effectively gathered samples from diverse surface areas. The workflow and methods described here are relevant to survey the urban environment for other viruses, which are of public health concern and pose a threat for future pandemics.

Environmental Microbiology , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Aerosols , Disinfection , Humans , Specimen Handling
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.