Influenza A virus is transmissible via aerosolized fomites

Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 18;11(1):4062. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17888-w.


Influenza viruses are presumed, but not conclusively known, to spread among humans by several possible routes. We provide evidence of a mode of transmission seldom considered for influenza: airborne virus transport on microscopic particles called "aerosolized fomites." In the guinea pig model of influenza virus transmission, we show that the airborne particulates produced by infected animals are mainly non-respiratory in origin. Surprisingly, we find that an uninfected, virus-immune guinea pig whose body is contaminated with influenza virus can transmit the virus through the air to a susceptible partner in a separate cage. We further demonstrate that aerosolized fomites can be generated from inanimate objects, such as by manually rubbing a paper tissue contaminated with influenza virus. Our data suggest that aerosolized fomites may contribute to influenza virus transmission in animal models of human influenza, if not among humans themselves, with important but understudied implications for public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Fomites*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H3N2 Subtype
  • Influenza A virus*
  • Influenza, Human / transmission*
  • Influenza, Human / virology*
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / virology
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter*


  • Aerosols
  • Particulate Matter