Airborne particles may be assisting the spread of SARS-CoV-2

Mar 26, 2020

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POLLUTION AND disease have long been associated in people’s minds. The very word “malaria”, for example, means “bad air” in Italian. But the germ theory of infection, developed in the 19th century, knocked on the head the idea that it is the air itself which causes illness. Rather, bad smells indicate sources of pathogens, such as sewage, which are best avoided. A paper just published by a group of Italian researchers does, however, posit the idea that SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the covid-19 pandemic, might be getting a helping hand from atmospheric pollution.

The paper in question, by Leonardo Setti of the University of Bologna and his colleagues, has not yet been through any process of peer review. Such early releases are, though, becoming commonplace for covid-19-related work, on the assumption that holding ideas back for bureaucratic approval might cost lives. Dr Setti and his associates found themselves wondering why (even allowing for time lags...


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