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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Detection and isolation of airborne SARS-CoV-2 in a hospital setting

de Sousa, Nuno Rufino; Steponaviciute, Laura; Margerie, Lucille; Nissen, Karolina; Kjellin, Midori; Reinius, Bjorn; Salaneck, Erik; Udekwu, Klas, I; Rothfuchs, Antonio Gigliotti


Transmission mechanisms for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are incompletely understood. In particular, aerosol transmission remains unclear, with viral detection in air and demonstration of its infection potential being actively investigated. To this end, we employed a novel electrostatic collector to sample air from rooms occupied by COVID-19 patients in a major Swedish hospital. Electrostatic air sampling in conjunction with extraction-free, reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (hid-RT-PCR) enabled detection of SARS-CoV-2 in air from patient rooms (9/22; 41%) and adjoining anterooms (10/22; 45%). Detection with hid-RT-PCR was concomitant with viral RNA presence on the surface of exhaust ventilation channels in patients and anterooms more than 2 m from the COVID-19 patient. Importantly, it was possible to detect active SARS-CoV-2 particles from room air, with a total of 496 plaque-forming units (PFUs) being isolated, establishing the presence of infectious, airborne SARS-CoV-2 in rooms occupied by COVID-19 patients. Our results support circulation of SARS-CoV-2 via aerosols and urge the revision of existing infection control frameworks to include airborne transmission.


environmental sampling; health care; infectious aerosols; pathogen detection; SARS-CoV-2; transmission

Published in

Indoor Air
2022, volume: 32, number: 3, article number: e13023
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

de Sousa, Nuno Rufino
Karolinska Institutet
Steponaviciute, Laura
Karolinska Institutet
Margerie, Lucille
Karolinska Institutet
Nissen, Karolina
Uppsala University
Kjellin, Midori
Uppsala University
Reinius, Bjorn
Karolinska Institutet
Salaneck, Erik
Uppsala University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Rothfuchs, Antonio Gigliotti
Karolinska Institutet

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Health and Occupational Health

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