Presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the air of public places and transportation

Atmos Pollut Res. 2021 Mar;12(3):302-306. doi: 10.1016/j.apr.2020.12.016. Epub 2021 Jan 2.


This study investigated the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in air of public places such as shopping centers, a post office, banks, governmental offices, and public transportation facilities including an airport, subways, and buses in Tehran, Iran. A total of 28 air samples were collected from the eight groups of public and transportation locations. The airborne particle samples were collected on PTFE or glass fiber filters using two types of samplers with flow rates of 40 and 3.5 L/min, respectively. The viral samples were leached and concentrated, and RNA was extracted from each. The presence of viral RNA was evaluated using novel coronavirus nucleic acid diagnostic real time PCR kits. In 64% of the samples, SARS-CoV-2 RNA (62% and 67% from the public places and transportation, respectively) was detected. Positive samples were detected in banks (33%), shopping centers (100%), governmental offices (50%), the airport (80%), subway stations (50%), subway trains (100%), and buses (50%). Logistic regression showed that number of people present during the sampling and the sampled air volume were positively associated with presence of SARS-CoV-2; while the percentage of people with masks, air temperature, and sampling site's volume were negatively related to SARS-CoV-2's presence. However, none of these associations were statistically significant. This study showed that most public places and transportation vehicles were contaminated with SARS-CoV-2. Thus, strategies to control the spread of COVID-19 should include reducing the number of people in indoor spaces, more intense disinfection of transport vehicles, and requiring people to wear masks.

Keywords: Aerosol; Airborne transmission; COVID-19; PCR.