COVID-19 more effective than SARS in infecting human airways: study
Novel coronavirus was found to be more effective than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in infecting human airways and eyes, according to the faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong that made the results public on Friday.
Michael Chan Chi-wai, associate professor of the university's School of Public Health, and his research team compared the infection rates of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV and the influenza viruses such as H5N1 and H1N1 using human upper respiratory tract and eye tissue in a laboratory.
The results showed that the new virus is much more efficient in infecting the human conjunctiva and the upper respiratory airways than SARS-CoV, and its level of infection is comparable to what is observed in the 2009 pandemic H1N1.
Taken together, this explains the higher transmissibility of the COVID-19 pandemic than that of SARS-CoV. "This study also highlights the fact that eyes may be an important route of SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) human infection," Chan said.
In a previous study, the research team discovered that novel coronavirus can remain for a few days on smooth surfaces such as stainless steel, glass and plastic. The new finding highlighted the possibility that infectious viruses can be spread from contaminated surfaces by hands, when people touch the surfaces and rub their eyes afterwards.
The finding implicated that it is vital to avoid touching eyes when in public areas, and regular hand washing with soap and water or cleaning hands with alcohol hand rub as an essential measure to prevent accidental transfer of novel coronavirus from contaminated surfaces to human eyes and noses.
The study was published in the medical journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine.