Hospital corridors may have higher viral loads than COVID-19 patient rooms

The Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDAEA), the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), and the Son Espases University Hospital (Mallorca) have used a new methodology to measure the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the air of hospitals that has made it possible to verify that the air in the corridors may have a higher concentration of virus than the rooms of patients with COVID-19.

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This is because the rooms have an individual ventilation system, while the corridors have only one for every four rooms. The results of the study, published in the journal ‘Environmental Research’, could be used to review hospital ventilation systems, improve your air quality and prevent infection of healthcare personnel.

The new methodology consists of placing air filters in corridors, rooms and other hospital rooms to analyze the genetic material of the virus in a systematic way. Research shows that greater presence of the genetic material of the virus is in the adjacent corridors to the rooms of COVID-19 patients, and not in the rooms themselves, where ventilation is more efficient. Therefore, there is a transfer of viruses from the rooms to the corridors.

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“These results are important, since many precautions are taken to enter the rooms, but less in the corridors”, emphasizes the first author of the work and researcher of the IDAEA-CSIC, Joan Grimalt.

At work, the research team measured the RNA concentration of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through an air filtration in different locations of the hospital (COVID-19 patient rooms and adjacent corridors; corridors adjacent to both ICU rooms as to rooms without COVID-19 patients; and the outdoor terrace) and its subsequent quantification using the PCR technique.

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The results of this research are transferable to other hospitals, since ventilation systems are generally similar. “First of all, it would be necessary to monitor the amount of virus RNA in the air of each hospital. If the result is positive, the ventilation system would have to be changed, adapting it to the particularities of each hospital center “, clarifies Grimalt.

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