As tenacious and pervasive as the coronavirus at the root of our long-running pandemic appears to be, SARS-CoV-2 has not only a host of strengths aiding its spread, but it also hides numerous vulnerabilities that could be exploited to help contain and defeat the deadly pathogen. Aside from lasting for an unfortunately long time in cold conditions, the virus is also less like Clark Kent and more like the Wicked Witch of the West, in that it is vulnerable to both sunlight and ordinary water.
A new study has found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can survive on frozen meat and fish for up to three weeks, with the study’s researchers discovering that the presence of the virus found wasn’t just remnants of its genetic material, but viable “live” examples of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that could still infect a host after being thawed. This discovery could explain the emergence of new outbreaks in places such as Vietnam, New Zealand and parts of China, despite those regions not having experienced new cases for months
The study involved inoculating 500 tiny cubes of salmon, chicken and pork obtained from supermarkets in Singapore with SARS-CoV-2 viral particles. The samples were then stored at 3 different temperatures (4°C, -20°C, and -80°C), and thawed at various times after their initial inoculation (1, 2, 5, 7, 14 and 21 days) to test how the virus fared under the various conditions. The researchers found that the amount of the virus capable of infecting a host remained the same regardless of not only what temperature the samples were stored at, but the amount of live virus also remained the same over the full three weeks for each temperature group.
The researchers hypothesize that workers in meat processing plants could be inadvertently infecting–and being infected by–the product they are working with; indeed, meat packing facilitates are prone to worker crowding, poor ventilation, lack of PPE, and shouting due to elevated ambient noise levels, making the facilities hazardous in terms of viral transmission.
The researchers also point out that this is simply a hypothesis: this potential source of viral contamination hasn’t been proven to be a viable mode of transmission, and the infection risk to consumers is low, as the virus would be destroyed by the heat involved in cooking the food.
Toward that end, a Russian study has found that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus doesn’t hold up too well in an environment commonly found around the globe: ordinary water. As one would expect, boiling water destroys the virus immediately, but the study also found that ordinary, room temperature water will deactivate 90 percent of the virus over the course of 24 hours, with that number increasing to 99.9 percent after 72 hours.
It should be noted that this study appears to remain unpublished, with the study’s findings instead announced by the Head of Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor), Dr. Anna Popova, in a report to President Vladimir Putin on the agency’s monitoring efforts of coastal sea water, swimming pools, and sources of drinking water.
Unfortunately, it was not specified as to what was meant by “ordinary water”–presumably this refers to chlorinated tap water, as the chemical treatment would degrade the virus’s structures, although other types of water could have been used for the study. On a positive note, Dr. Popova said that no major risk of waterborne infection could be found through their analyses.
And finally, in a pandemic that can seem oppressively dark at times, a little sunshine can help alleviate the danger: in an Instagram interview with actor Matthew McConaughey, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that ordinary sunlight can destroy the virus. “That’s one of the reasons why outside in the sun when you are interacting… That is much, much better than being inside… Outside is always better than inside.”
Fauci was referring to a June study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology that found that “90% or more of SARS-CoV-2 virus will be inactivated after being exposed (to the summer sun) for 11 to 34 minutes,” and that “99% of SARS-CoV-2 may be inactivated within the two hours period around solar noon during summer in most US cities located south of latitude 43 degrees north.”