home .Featured, Coronavirus #COVID19 Journal Club: Kind of strange “study” that’s not really about SARS-CoV-2

#COVID19 Journal Club: Kind of strange “study” that’s not really about SARS-CoV-2


So here’s a bit of an odd “study”, published as a letter in the Journal of Hospital Infection about which the authors put out a press release as well.  The title is “COVID-19 pandemic, let’s not forget surfaces”.  No abstract since it’s a letter.

Basically the authors took DNA from cauliflower mosaic virus, and inoculated a hospital bed rail with it… followed by swabbing for the next few days and looking for the virus.  And the found the virus all over the hospital and drew some conclusions from that.

Let’s break that down for a second.  Firstly, SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus… and it’s well known that DNA is much more stable than RNA.  Secondly, viruses vary widely in their ability to linger on surfaces so some random unrelated virus is not a good proxy to ask these questions.  But anyway, we already know that viruses, DNA, and RNA are stable on various surfaces for some time… including SARS-CoV-2 which makes this proxy study even more bizarre.

To top it off, the authors follow this by making unsubstantiated claims such as “The results from this study show the importance of surface-mediated transmission, particularly in light of the current outbreak.”  Except that they don’t, not even a tiny bit.  Firstly, their virus is a poor proxy for SARS-CoV-2, they are looking for the presence of nucleic acids and not live virus, we have no idea what the infectious dose is for SARS-CoV-2, and there is no evidence in this paper (or others) for surface-mediated transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (though it’s certainly possible).


David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter

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