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Coronavirus can survive on skin for up to 9 hours, scientists warn

 Photo: Courtesy

Since the coronavirus pandemic was declared back in March, many people have become more vigilant about regularly washing their hands. And a new study is likely to have you reaching for the hand sanitiser even more often. Researchers from Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine have warned that coronavirus can survive on skin for up to nine hours.

Meanwhile, the influenza A virus (IAV) can survive on human skin for about two hours, according to the researchers. Based on the findings, the researchers are encouraging the public to be vigilant about their handwashing.

In the study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the researchers, led by Ryohei Hirose, said: "This study shows that SARS-CoV-2 may have a higher risk of contact transmission [i.e. transmission from direct contact] than IAV because the first is much more stable on human skin [than the latter].

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“These findings support the hypothesis that proper hand hygiene is important for the prevention of the spread of SARS-CoV-2.” In the study, the team created a skin model using samples of human skin from autopsies, before placing both the coronavirus and IAV on the samples.

The results revealed that SARS-CoV-2 survived on the samples for 9.04 hours, while IAV survived for just 1.82 hours. And when the viruses were mixed with mucus - mimicking the release of particles in a cough or sneeze - SARS-CoV-2 lasted up to 11 hours.

Thankfully, when hand sanitiser was applied to the skin, both viruses were inactivated within 15 seconds.

The researchers added: “Appropriate hand hygiene using ethanol-based disinfectants leads to the quick viral inactivation and may reduce the high risk of contact infections.” The study comes shortly after one expert claimed that coronavirus does not spread through touching surfaces like door handles and light switches.

Speaking to Nautilus, Monica Gandhi, a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said: “It’s not [spread] through surfaces. There was a lot of fear at the beginning of the pandemic about fomite transmission.

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“We now know the root of the spread is not from touching surfaces and touching your eye. It’s from being close to someone spewing virus from their nose and mouth, without in most cases knowing they are doing so.”

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