Coronavirus has been detected on particles of air pollution by scientists looking into whether the illness could be carried this way over long distances and potentially increase the infection rate.
Preliminary work from researchers in Italy found a gene highly specific to Covid-19 in multiple outdoor air pollution samples.
It raises a suggestion that higher levels of particle pollution could lead to higher rates of infection – for example in regions of northern Italy which are among the most polluted in Europe.
However, researchers have stressed that the new medical work is yet to be evaluated and should not be used to guide clinical practice.
The Italian scientists collected the samples from one urban area in Italy and one industrial site in Bergamo, a city in the alpine Lombardy region, according to The Guardian.
After using blind testing at an independent laboratory, they discovered the gene specific to coronavirus in many samples and have now called for further investigation.
Leonardo Setti at the University of Bologna in Italy, who led the work, said: ‘I am a scientist and I am worried when I don’t know.
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‘If we know, we can find a solution. But if we don’t know, we can only suffer the consequences.’
The yet-to-be verified study comes after two other research groups suggested air pollution particles could help coronavirus travel further distance in the air.
Previous studies have shown that air pollution particles bear microbes, meaning pollution is likely to have carried the viruses causing bird flu, measles and foot-and-mouth disease across large distances.
It comes as experts remain uncertain over whether tiny airborne droplets that stay in the air for minutes to hours can cause infection.
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