The study, led by Imperial College London, sheds light on the spread of coronavirus in homes – and is the first to link virus particles on hands and commonly touched surfaces in the home and the risk of infection for those in contact.
The lead author said the findings show that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 on hands and surfaces is a major contributor to the spread of Covid-19. Ajit Lalvani From Imperial College in a broadcast: In homes where coronavirus was found on surfaces and on the hands of study participants, the infection of those who were in contact and therefore transmission was significantly higher.
Taps, kettles, handles for the refrigerator
The study was conducted at the height of the epidemic – before and during alpha– Wave – carried out in 279 families in London. 279 newly infected patients and 414 contacts, between the ages of six and 79 years, participated. Because the study was conducted early in the pandemic, between August 2020 and March 2021, very few participants were vaccinated or previously infected, leaving the majority vulnerable.
All contact persons were regularly tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection using a PCR test. Swabs were also taken from the hands of all participants, as well as from the most commonly touched surfaces in common areas: faucets, kettles, and refrigerator door handles.
After taking factors such as gender, vaccination status, underlying diseases, and the relationship of people in contact with the infected person into account, the research team found that contacts in the same household were 1.7 times more likely to be infected if the virus was present. The injured person’s hand was taped. The probability of infection was equally high if the virus was on frequently touched surfaces in the home.
Easy to use procedures
The research team said because this is an observational study, a causal relationship cannot be proven. However, the research findings, now published in The Lancet Microbe, strongly suggest that washing hands and disinfecting surfaces can prevent infection. Given that new variants are likely to continue circulating despite booster shots, Lalvani said, these are easy measures to implement to disrupt the spread of the virus.