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Omicron endures over 21 hours on skin and for over a week on plastic: Study

According to Japanese researchers, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 can remain alive longer on skin and plastic than the earlier variants like Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma. A study from Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan examined differences in viral environmental stability between the SARS-CoV-2 Wuhan strain and all variants of concern (VOCs).

Omicron can survive for more than 21 hours on the skin and for more than eight days on any plastic surface, according to a study posted recently on the biorepository BioRxiv. The study noted that this might be the reason why Omicron spreads more rapidly than other strains. These VOCs possess high environmental stability, which could increase the risk of contact transmission and contribute to their spread, the authors of the study said.

The study concluded that Omicron has the highest environmental stability of all VOCs, which might explain how it replaced the Delta variant so quickly and spread so widely. Researchers found that the Omicron variant can survive on plastic surfaces for 193.5 hours and on human skin for 21.1 hours. In comparison, the original strain and subsequent variants like Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta lasted 56 hours, 191.3 hours, 156.6 hours, 59.3 hours, and 114 hours, respectively.

In contrast, the virus survived on the skin for an average of 8.6 hours with the original version, 19.6 hours with Alpha, 19.1 hours with Beta, 11 hours with Gamma and 16.8 hours with Delta, according to the study. Additionally, the study looked at how ethanol-based sanitizers affected the variants. Researchers found that Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omicron variants showed a slight increase in ethanol resistance due to increased environmental stability.

By exposing the skin surface to 35 percent ethanol for 15 seconds, all VOCs were completely inactivated. Thus, the researchers recommended that current infection control (hand hygiene) practices use disinfectants, as recommended by the World Health Organization.



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