Isolation of SARS-CoV-2 from the air in a car driven by a COVID patient with mild illness

Int J Infect Dis. 2021 Jul:108:212-216. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2021.04.063. Epub 2021 Apr 24.


Objective: To determine if viable virus could be isolated from the air within a car driven by a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2, and to assess the size range of the infectious particles.

Methods: We used a Sioutas personal cascade impactor sampler (PCIS) to screen for SARS-CoV-2 in a car driven by a COVID-19 patient. The patient, who had only mild illness without fever or cough and was not wearing a mask, drove the car for 15 min with the air conditioning turned on and windows closed. The PCIS was clipped to the sun-visor above the front passenger seat and was retrieved from the car two hours after completion of the drive.

Results: SARS-CoV-2 was detectable at all PCIS stages by PCR and was cultured from the section of the sampler collecting particles in the 0.25-0.50 μm size range.

Conclusions: Our data highlight the potential risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by minimally symptomatic persons in the closed space inside of a car and suggest that a substantial component of that risk is via aerosolized virus.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; SARS-CoV-2 aerosols; SARS-CoV-2 in vehicles.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Automobiles
  • COVID-19*
  • Cough
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2*


  • Aerosols