SARS-CoV-2 in the Air Surrounding Patients during Nebulizer Therapy

Gohli, Jostein
Brantsæter, Arne Broch
Bøifot, Kari Oline
Grub, Carola
Granerud, Beathe Kiland
Holter, Jan Cato
Dyrhol-Riise, Anne Ma
Smedholen, Madelen Foss
Dybwad, Marius
Date Issued
Gohli, Jostein; Brantsæter, Arne Broch; Bøifot, Kari Oline; Grub, Carola; Granerud, Beathe Kiland; Holter, Jan Cato; Dyrhol-Riise, Anne Ma; Smedholen, Madelen Foss; Dybwad, Marius. SARS-CoV-2 in the Air Surrounding Patients during Nebulizer Therapy. Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology 2022 ;Volum 2022
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Nebulizer therapy is commonly used for patients with obstructive pulmonary disease or acute pulmonary infections with signs of obstruction. It is considered a “potential aerosol-generating procedure,” and the risk of disease transmission to health care workers is uncertain. The aim of this pilot study was to assess whether nebulizer therapy in hospitalized COVID-19 patients is associated with increased dispersion of SARS-CoV-2. Air samples collected prior to and during nebulizer therapy were analyzed by RT-PCR and cell culture. Total aerosol particle concentrations were also quantified. Of 13 patients, seven had quantifiable virus in oropharynx samples, and only two had RT-PCR positive air samples. For both these patients, air samples collected during nebulizer therapy had higher SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations compared to control air samples. Also, for particle sizes 0.3–5 µm, particle concentrations were significantly higher during nebulizer therapy than in controls. We were unable to cultivate virus from any of the RT-PCR positive air samples, and it is therefore unknown if the detected virus were replication-competent; however, the significant increase in smaller particles, which can remain airborne for extended periods of time, and increased viral RNA concentrations during treatment may indicate that nebulizer therapy is associated with increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
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