The coronavirus can survive long exposure to high temperatures, a study by a group of researchers at Aix-Marseille University in southern France found.
They heated the coronavirus at 56 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, 60 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes, and 92 degrees Celsius (almost boiling point of water) for 15 minutes, according to the research paper published on journal bioRxiv.org on Saturday.
While the high temperatures significantly reduced the effectiveness of the coronavirus, it was still able to replicate, i.e. capable of starting another round of infection in its host.
Only during the protocol of heating the coronavirus for 92 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes was COVID-19 completely deactivated.
The most common protocol for deactivating a virus is the one-hour 60 degrees Celsius heating, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. This protocol is used to deactivate viruses with high mortality rates, such as the Ebola virus.
The results of this study have dangerous implications for laboratory technicians conducting tests on samples to determine whether they are positive for coronavirus or not.
Lab technicians across the globe use the common one-hour 60 degrees Celsius protocol to deactivate deadly viruses before processing test samples.
However, as this study shows, that protocol is not very effective with the COVID-19 virus, putting lab technicians at high risk of contracting the virus while doing their jobs.
Now, while the higher temperature protocol has proven to deactivate the virus completely, the high temperatures could also significantly fragment the virus’ RNA – the molecules which carry the unique genetic code of the virus. This reduces the sensitivity of the test and increases the probability of false negative results.
The researchers suggest using chemicals instead of the near boiling temperature to deactivate the virus, enabling laboratory technicians to maintain their safety without compromising the efficiency of the coronavirus test too much.
“The results presented in this study should help to choose the best suited protocol for inactivation in order to prevent exposure of laboratory personnel in charge of direct and indirect detection of Sars-CoV-2 (coronavirus) for diagnostic purpose,” wrote the authors.
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