SARS-CoV-2 environmental contamination from hospitalised COVID-19 patients receiving aerosol generating procedures

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Background Continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) and high-flow nasal oxygen (HFNO) are considered ‘aerosol-generating procedures’ (AGPs) in the treatment of COVID-19. We aimed to measure air and surface environmental contamination of SARS-CoV-2 virus when CPAP and HFNO were used, compared with supplemental oxygen, to investigate the potential risks of viral transmission to healthcare workers and patients.

Methods 30 hospitalised patients with COVID-19 requiring supplemental oxygen, with a fraction of inspired oxygen ≥0.4 to maintain oxygen saturations ≥94%, were prospectively enrolled into an observational environmental sampling study. Participants received either supplemental oxygen, CPAP or HFNO (n=10 in each group). A nasopharyngeal swab, three air and three surface samples were collected from each participant and the clinical environment. RT qPCR analyses were performed for viral and human RNA, and positive/suspected-positive samples were cultured for the presence of biologically viable virus.

Results Overall 21/30 (70%) of participants tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the nasopharynx. In contrast, only 4/90 (4%) and 6/90 (7%) of all air and surface samples tested positive (positive for E and ORF1a) for viral RNA respectively, although there were an additional 10 suspected-positive samples in both air and surfaces samples (positive for E or ORF1a). CPAP/HFNO use or coughing was not associated with significantly more environmental contamination. Only one nasopharyngeal sample was culture positive.

Conclusions The use of CPAP and HFNO to treat moderate/severe COVID-19 was not associated with significantly higher levels of air or surface viral contamination in the immediate care environment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


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