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Mechanistic theory predicts the effects of temperature and humidity on inactivation of SARS-CoV-2 and other enveloped viruses

By Dylan H. Morris, Claude Kwe Yinda, Amandine Gamble, Fernando W. Rossine, Qishen Huang, Trenton Bushmaker, Robert J. Fischer, M. Jeremiah Matson, Neeltje van Doremalen, Peter J. Vikesland, Linsey C. Marr, Vincent Munster, James O Lloyd-Smith

Posted 16 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.16.341883

Environmental conditions affect virus inactivation rate and transmission potential. Understanding those effects is critical for anticipating and mitigating epidemic spread. Ambient temperature and humidity strongly affect the inactivation rate of enveloped viruses, but a mechanistic, quantitative theory of those effects has been elusive. We measure the stability of the enveloped respiratory virus SARS-CoV-2 on an inert surface at nine temperature and humidity conditions and develop a mechanistic model to explain and predict how temperature and humidity alter virus inactivation. We find SARS-CoV-2 survives longest at low temperatures and extreme relative humidities; median estimated virus half-life is over 24 hours at 10 {degrees}C and 40 % RH, but approximately 1.5 hours at 27 {degrees}C and 65 % RH. Our mechanistic model uses simple chemistry to explain the increase in virus inactivation rate with increased temperature and the U-shaped dependence of inactivation rate on relative humidity. The model accurately predicts quantitative measurements from existing studies of five different human coronaviruses (including SARS-CoV-2), suggesting that shared mechanisms may determine environmental stability for many enveloped viruses. Our results indicate scenarios of particular transmission risk, point to pandemic mitigation strategies, and open new frontiers in the mechanistic study of virus transmission.

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