Structural stability of SARS-CoV-2 virus like particles degrades with temperature

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2021 Jan 1;534:343-346. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2020.11.080. Epub 2020 Nov 28.


SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus which has caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Other known coronaviruses show a strong pattern of seasonality, with the infection cases in humans being more prominent in winter. Although several plausible origins of such seasonal variability have been proposed, its mechanism is unclear. SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted via airborne droplets ejected from the upper respiratory tract of the infected individuals. It has been reported that SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious for hours on surfaces. As such, the stability of viral particles both in liquid droplets as well as dried on surfaces is essential for infectivity. Here we have used atomic force microscopy to examine the structural stability of individual SARS-CoV-2 virus like particles at different temperatures. We demonstrate that even a mild temperature increase, commensurate with what is common for summer warming, leads to dramatic disruption of viral structural stability, especially when the heat is applied in the dry state. This is consistent with other existing non-mechanistic studies of viral infectivity, provides a single particle perspective on viral seasonality, and strengthens the case for a resurgence of COVID-19 in winter.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; Stability; Temperature; Virus-like particle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / chemistry*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology
  • Seasons
  • Temperature*
  • Virion / chemistry