Virus Survives in Air for Hours

The Tulane National Primate Research Center leads a study on COVID-19 aerosols.

photo of Chad Roy in lab
Chad Roy is director of Infectious Disease Aerobiology, Tulane National Primate Research Center.

Director of Infectious Disease Aerobiology at the Tulane National Primate Research Center Chad Roy was the lead investigator on a study that found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can remain infective in aerosol for up to 16 hours.

Roy said that he was surprised by the results of the study, which was published in Emerging Infectious Diseases in September.

“We saw very little deterioration in the infectiousness of these aerosols after 16 hours. This is notable because we would expect it to behave similar to other coronaviruses that begin to decay over this amount of time — and, it didn’t.”

To conduct the experiment, researchers sprayed the viral aerosols into a slowly churning aerosol chamber and suspended them for 16 hours, continuously monitoring what changes were taking place.

“This is just one more piece of the puzzle in understanding how people are getting sick and how we can best protect ourselves and each other.”


Scientists already knew that large droplets, such as those that might be felt when someone sneezes, can effectively transmit COVID-19. But the infectiousness of tiny aerosol particles, measuring less than 2 microns and emitted when someone simply speaks or breathes, has been less understood.

While this research was conducted in an artificial, laboratory-type setting that didn’t factor in real-world conditions like UV light or wind, Roy believes that the findings have practical implications.

“If anything, this research should serve as a warning light that this virus is more resilient than similar viruses.”