How Long Can the SARS-CoV-2 Virus Live on Surfaces and in Aerosols?

How Long Can the SARS-CoV-2 Virus Live on Surfaces and in Aerosols?


The current outbreak of the respiratory disease COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. To understand and prevent the transmission of this virus, it is important to know how long it can persist in aerosols and on surfaces. A literature study has recently shown that human coronaviruses, in general, can persist on surfaces for up to nine days.

Vincent Munster, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Hamilton, MT, USA, and colleagues have investigated the stability of viable SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols and on surfaces and compared it to that of the virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), SARS-CoV-1. The team generated aerosols of both viruses using a nebulizer and collected samples in regular intervals. They also studied the stability of both viruses on polypropylene, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard.

The researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 remained viable in aerosols for at least three hours, similar to the SARS virus. Both viruses have half-lives of around 2.7 hours in aerosols. The stability on surfaces is also very similar: The viruses remained detectable for up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel. The estimated half-lives for SARS-CoV-2 are ca. 13 hours on steel and ca. 16 hours on polypropylene. According to the researchers, this indicates that both aerosols and contaminated surfaces are plausible transmission pathways.

The research has been published as a preprint and has not yet been peer-reviewed. It should not be used to guide clinical practice.


Also of Interest


  • LitCovid
    Curated literature hub for tracking up-to-date scientific information about COVID-19
  • Many publishers and other entities have signed a joint statement to ensure that COVID-19 research findings and data are shared rapidly and openly



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