KEY POINTS

  • Researchers in Italy found that outdoor air samples contained a gene specific to COVID-19
  • The finding is reportedly not far-fetched since air particles do contain microbes
  • The samples were taken from one of Italy's most polluted areas

Outdoor air pollution samples collected by researchers in Italy were found to contain a gene-specific to COVID-19. The samples were taken from urban and industrial sites in one of the hardest-hit provinces in Italy during the pandemic. The study has not been subjected yet to a peer review. Furthermore, it does not make any determination as to whether the quantity of the virus on pollution particles is enough to cause disease.

Virus-Laden Pollution Particles

Air samples from two sites in Bergamo province situated in the Lombardy region, the section of the country hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers performed thorough tests on the samples and discovered in multiple samples a gene highly specific to COVID-19.

Findings Are Not Far-Fetched

According to reports, the findings of Italian researchers are not far-fetched as past studies have proven that air pollution particles do contain microbes. It has also been theorized that pollution may have carried over significant distances the viruses that caused measles, foot-and-mouth disease, and bird flu, the Guardian said.

In an interview with the Guardian, the study’s lead author, Leonardo Setti, said what worries him is the lack of information on how the disease may be carried by pollutants. He said that it is his nature as a scientist to worry about something he does not know about. “If we know, we can find a solution. But if we don’t know, we can only suffer the consequences,” Dr. Setti said.

High Level Of Particle Pollution

The samples collected by the team of researchers were confirmed to contain traces of coronavirus through blind testing performed by an independent laboratory, Dr. Setti told the Guardian. His team also theorized that a high level of particle pollution in the air might be the reason why the rates of infection in Northern Italy were much higher. According to reports, the northern part of Italy is among the most polluted sections of Europe.

In a separate interview with the Guardian, Dr. Jonathan Reid, a professor at Bristol University in the United Kingdom, said that the findings of Italian researchers do not surprise him. Dr. Reid said, “It is perhaps not surprising that while suspended in air, the small droplets could combine with background urban particles and be carried around.” Dr. Reid is also among those researching on the possibility of airborne transmission of coronavirus.