Indoor Air 32 (3) e13023 [2022-03-00; online 2022-03-30]
Transmission mechanisms for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are incompletely understood. In particular, aerosol transmission remains unclear, with viral detection in air and demonstration of its infection potential being actively investigated. To this end, we employed a novel electrostatic collector to sample air from rooms occupied by COVID-19 patients in a major Swedish hospital. Electrostatic air sampling in conjunction with extraction-free, reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (hid-RT-PCR) enabled detection of SARS-CoV-2 in air from patient rooms (9/22; 41%) and adjoining anterooms (10/22; 45%). Detection with hid-RT-PCR was concomitant with viral RNA presence on the surface of exhaust ventilation channels in patients and anterooms more than 2 m from the COVID-19 patient. Importantly, it was possible to detect active SARS-CoV-2 particles from room air, with a total of 496 plaque-forming units (PFUs) being isolated, establishing the presence of infectious, airborne SARS-CoV-2 in rooms occupied by COVID-19 patients. Our results support circulation of SARS-CoV-2 via aerosols and urge the revision of existing infection control frameworks to include airborne transmission.