The coronavirus can survive on skin for this many hours, study suggests

A transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the United States. Note the crown-like spikes on the outer edge of the virus, hence the term "coron (NIAID-RML)

New research out of Japan suggests the novel coronavirus can live on human skin for up to nine hours.

In a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases on Oct. 3, researchers from the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine found that SARS-CoV-2 outlived the influenza A virus (IAV) on human skin, which remained viable for about two hours.

The researchers “generated a model that allows the safe reproduction of clinical studies on the application of pathogens to human skin and elucidated the stability of SARS-CoV-2 on the human skin,” they wrote. The models were created from samples of human skin taken from autopsies, per Live Science.

Using the model, the researchers found the survival of SARS-Cov-2 was “significantly longer” compared to IAV, with 9.04 hours and 1.82 hours, respectively.

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When both viruses were subsequently mixed with mucus to imitate a cough or sneeze, the novel coronavirus lasted about 11 hours, the researchers found.

Thankfully, however, both SARS-CoV-2 and the influenza A virus were “completely inactivated within 15 [seconds] by ethanol treatment,” or hand sanitizer containing 80% ethanol, they said.

“The 9-[hour] survival of SARS-CoV-2 on human skin may increase the risk of contact transmission in comparison with IAV, thus accelerating the pandemic. Proper hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” they concluded.

The study had at least one limitation, however. The researchers in their review did not consider the viral load needed to cause a COVID-19 infection from contact with contaminated skin, Live Science noted.

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The research comes after a separate study conducted early on in the pandemic, in March, found that the novel virus can live on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to three days.

That research, published in the medRxiv depository, noted that the virus can remain on copper surfaces for four hours and carboard for up to 24 hours. The research also found it could stay on stainless steel and plastic for anywhere between two and three days.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia contributed to this report. 

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