COVID Gets Airborne - Let a UC San Diego expert explain how viruses travel through the air

COVID Gets Airborne - Let a UC San Diego expert explain how viruses travel through the air COVID Gets Airborne - Let a UC San Diego expert explain how viruses travel through the air

November 30, 20212 min read
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In May 2021, the Centers for Disease Control officially recognized that SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—is airborne, meaning it is highly transmissible through the air.


Now University of California San Diego Professor and Endowed Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry Rommie Amaro, along with partners across the U.S. and around the world, has modeled the delta virus inside an aerosol for the first time.



This work was a finalist for the Gordon Bell Prize, given by the Association for Computing Machinery each year to recognize outstanding achievement in high-performance computing. Amaro led the team that won the prize last year for its work on modeling an all-atom SARS-CoV-2 virus and the virus’s spike protein to understand how it behaves and gains access to human cells.


“It’s wonderful to be a finalist for the Gordon Bell Prize a second year in a row,” stated Amaro. “But more than that, we’re really excited about the potential this work has to deepen our understanding of how viruses are transmitted through aerosols. The impacts could change the way we view airborne diseases.”


Aerosols are tiny. A human hair is approximately 100 microns in diameter. Droplets—think of the spray that comes out of your mouth and nose when you sneeze—are larger than 100 microns and fall to the ground in seconds. In contrast, aerosols—produced simply by breathing and speaking—are everything smaller than 100 microns and can float in the air for hours and travel long distances.


Kim Prather, Distinguished Chair in atmospheric chemistry and director of the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE), has studied sea spray and ocean aerosols extensively. She contacted Amaro several years ago noting that these aerosols had much more than seawater in them.


“The common thinking used to be that ocean aerosols only contained salt water,” Prather stated. “But we discovered there was a ton of ocean-biology inside—living organisms including proteins and viruses. I not only thought Rommie would be interested in studying this, but also thought her work could be really beneficial in helping us gain a better understanding of aerosol composition and movement and airborne survival.”



A full release detailing the research is attached and well worth reading.



And if you are a journalist interested in learning more about this research and what it means as we all try and adapt and adjust to COVID-19, then let our experts help.


Rommie E. Amaro is a professor and endowed chair of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California San Diego. Her research focuses on the development and application of computational methods to address outstanding questions in drug discovery and biophysics.


Professor Amaro is available to speak with media regarding this important subject. Simply click on her icon now to arrange an interview today.



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  • Rommie Amaro
    Rommie Amaro Professor and Shuler Scholar, Chemistry and Biochemistry

    Her research focuses on development of computational methods in biophysics for applications to drug discovery.

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