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SARS-CoV-2 viability on sports equipment is limited, and dependent on material composition

Edwards, Thomas, Kay, Grant Alistair, Aljayyoussi, Ghaith, Owen, Sophie ORCID:, Harland, Andy R, Pierce, Nicholas S, Calder, James D F, Fletcher, Tom and Adams, Emily ORCID: (2022) 'SARS-CoV-2 viability on sports equipment is limited, and dependent on material composition'. Scientific Reports, Vol 12, e1416.

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The control of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK has necessitated restrictions on amateur and professional sports due to the perceived infection risk to competitors, via direct person to person transmission, or possibly via the surfaces of sports equipment. The sharing of sports equipment such as tennis balls was therefore banned by some sport’s governing bodies. We sought to investigate the potential of sporting equipment as transmission vectors of SARS-CoV-2.
Ten different types of sporting equipment, including balls from common sports, were inoculated with 40μl droplets containing clinically relevant concentrations of live SARS-CoV-2 virus. Materials were then swabbed at time points relevant to sports (1, 5, 15, 30, 90 minutes). The amount of live SARS-CoV-2 recovered at each time point was enumerated using viral plaque assays, and viral decay and half-life was estimated through fitting linear models to log transformed data from each material.
At one minute, SARS-CoV-2 virus was recovered in only seven of the ten types of equipment with the low dose inoculum, one at five minutes and none at 15 minutes. Retrievable virus dropped significantly for all materials tested using the high dose inoculum with mean recovery of virus falling to 0.74% at 1 minute, 0.39% at 15 minutes and 0.003% at 90 minutes. Viral recovery, predicted decay, and half-life varied between materials with porous surfaces limiting virus transmission.
This study shows that there is an exponential reduction in SARS-CoV-2 recoverable from a range of sports equipment after a short time period, and virus is less transferrable from materials such as a tennis ball, red cricket ball and cricket glove. Given this rapid loss of viral load and the fact that transmission requires a significant inoculum to be transferred from equipment to the mucous membranes of another individual it seems unlikely that sports equipment is a major cause for transmission of SARS-CoV-2. These findings have important policy implications in the context of the pandemic and may promote other infection control measures in sports to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and urge sports equipment manufacturers to identify surfaces that may or may not be likely to retain transferable virus.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: WA Public Health > Preventive Medicine > WA 110 Prevention and control of communicable diseases. Transmission of infectious diseases
WA Public Health > Preventive Medicine > WA 240 Disinfection. Disinfestation. Pesticides (including diseases caused by)
WA Public Health > WA 4 Works on general hygiene
WC Communicable Diseases > Virus Diseases > Viral Respiratory Tract Infections. Respirovirus Infections > WC 505 Viral respiratory tract infections
WC Communicable Diseases > Virus Diseases > Viral Respiratory Tract Infections. Respirovirus Infections > WC 506 COVID-19
WF Respiratory System > WF 140 Diseases of the respiratory system (General)
Faculty: Department: Biological Sciences > Department of Tropical Disease Biology
Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Depositing User: Cathy Waldron
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2022 11:41
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2022 14:11


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