Tuesday, 4. February 2020
According to an American study, it is much easier for flu viruses to spread than previously thought. The germs can be shed into the air not only by coughing and sneezing, but also by regular breathing. People who are sick and inhale saline solutions can reduce the number of germs that they exhale.
To research the routes of transmission of the flu virus, a team at an American university analysed breath samples from 142 study participants who had confirmed influenza infections. For the study, in the first three days after the onset of the flu, samples of the exhaled air (exhaled aerosol) were taken when the participants breathed, coughed or sneezed1.
The study’s key findings: 11 of 23 samples which were collected without coughing or sneezing contained the virus. Eight of the samples even had levels of the virus that were sufficient for causing infection.
Another American study showed that inhaling an isotonic NaCl solution significantly reduces the exhalation of so-called pathogen-laden bioaerosol droplets over a prolonged period2. “High producers”, i.e. people who exhale over 500 of these infectious particles within 6 hours, responded to inhalation of saline solution even with a significant drop in particles of more than 70 per cent for up to 6 hours.
1Yan J, Grantham M, Pantelic J, et al. Infectious virus in exhaled breath of symptomatic seasonal influenza cases from a college community. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2018;115(5):1081-1086.
2Edwards DA, Man JC, Brand P, et al. Inhaling to mitigate exhaled bioaerosols. Proc Natl Acad Sci U A. 2004;101(50):17383-8.
An article written by the PARI BLOG editorial team.