In a new study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases by researchers from the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan, scientists found out that the novel coronavirus can survive on human skin for up to 9 hours – a timeline that is significantly higher than that of the flu virus.
SARS-Cov-2, the scientific name for the virus that causes the coronavirus disease, remains active on the human skin for about 9 hours, the study reveals. On the other hand, the influenza virus (IAV) remains active on human skin for about 2 hours only.
However, both viruses are rendered inactive within 15 minutes by hand-sanitizers which contain 80% ethanol.
The study, which was carried out to underscore the importance of hand-washing or the use of sanitizer to prevent the spread of COVID-19, was a collaborative effort between the University’s Department of Infectious Diseases, the Department of Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and the Department of Forensic Medicine.
Earlier in the pandemic, US researchers conducted studies to determine how long the COVID-19 could survive on surfaces. They found that it remains viable on copper surfaces for up to 4 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, but it survives for about 3 days on plastic and stainless steel. However, due to ethical justifications, how long the virus could last on the human skin could not be determined. It would be irresponsible to put samples of a highly contagious virus on human skin.
However, the researchers in Japan found a way around this. They used human cadavers a day after their death to conduct the test. They simply drafted skin models using samples of human skin obtained from autopsies. Since the human skin can be used for skin graft a day after their death because they can still retain most of their functions, they were very well-suited for this study.
With their newfound models, the researchers established that coronavirus remains viable on the human skin for 9.04 hours in contrast to the influenza A virus which survives for just 1.82 hours. When these viruses were mixed with mucus to imitate the particles found in a cough or sneeze, the timeline of the viability of the coronavirus even lasted an extra 3 to 11 hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing hands with soap and water to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In cases where soap and water are not available, then people can use hand-sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
This study is becoming public days after President Donald Trump made a comparison between the coronavirus and the influenza virus via Facebook and Twitter. He said that the flu was “far lethal” than the coronavirus. The tweet has since been removed by Facebook and hidden by Twitter.