The Stability of an Isolate of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 Lineage in Aerosols Is Similar to 3 Earlier Isolates

J Infect Dis. 2021 Nov 22;224(10):1641-1648. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiab171.


Background: Our laboratory previously examined the influence of environmental conditions on the stability of an early isolate of SARS-CoV-2 (hCoV-19/USA/WA-1/2020) in aerosols generated from culture medium or simulated saliva. However, genetic differences have emerged among SARS-CoV-2 lineages, and it is possible that these differences may affect environmental stability and the potential for aerosol transmission.

Methods: The influence of temperature, relative humidity, and simulated sunlight on the decay of 4 SARS-CoV-2 isolates in aerosols, including 1 belonging to the recently emerged B.1.1.7 lineage, were compared in a rotating drum chamber. Aerosols were generated from simulated respiratory tract lining fluid to represent aerosols originating from the deep lung.

Results: No differences in the stability of the isolates were observed in the absence of simulated sunlight at either 20°C or 40°C. However, a small but statistically significant difference in the stability was observed between some isolates in simulated sunlight at 20°C and 20% relative humidity.

Conclusions: The stability of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols does not vary greatly among currently circulating lineages, including B.1.1.7, suggesting that the increased transmissibility associated with recent SARS-CoV-2 lineages is not due to enhanced survival in the environment.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; aerosol; decay; isolate; persistence; relative humidity; sunlight; temperature; variant.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Respiratory Aerosols and Droplets
  • SARS-CoV-2*

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants