A 17-month longitudinal surface sampling study carried out on public transport vehicles operating in England during the COVID-19 pandemic identified low levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA contamination

Paz Aranega-Bou*, Thomas Pottage, Abigail Fenwick, Wilhemina D’Costa, Natalie F. Brown, Nicola Yaxley, Marco Felipe King, Simon T. Parker, Daniel Miller, Martín López-García, Catherine J. Noakes, Ginny Moore, Allan Bennett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Aims: To monitor severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA contamination in vehicles operating in England during the pandemic, to better understand transmission risk of SARS-CoV-2 on public transport. Methods and results: We collected 1314 surface samples between December 2020 and April 2022 on trains and buses managed by five different transport operators. The presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA was investigated through reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). SARS-CoV-2 RNA was found on 197 (15%) of the 1314 surfaces sampled, including seat head rests, handholds, and air extract grilles, but the levels of RNA recovered on those samples (median value of 23.4, interquartile range: 14.3–35.4, N gene copies per extraction) made the presence of infectious virus at the time of sampling extremely unlikely. However, detection rates varied over time with peaks broadly coinciding with times of high community transmission, when it was more likely that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 were travelling on public transport. Conclusion: During the pandemic, and as in other public spaces, low levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA were found on surfaces associated with public transport.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Volume135
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Crown copyright 2024.

Keywords

  • bus
  • coronavirus
  • surface
  • train

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