Physicists have found out how particles of a new type of coronavirus interact with pollen. Scientists believe that pollen may accelerate the transfer of SARS-CoV-2 between humans. The findings of the researchers were published in the scientific journal Physics of Fluids.
In the spring, reports began to appear in the media that the coronavirus could spread, including with pollen. The fact is that European biologists noticed that many local outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided in time with episodes of flowering of various plants in certain regions of Europe.
These observations have sparked a lot of debate about whether such a relationship actually exists and how exactly plant pollen may contribute to the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Some scientists suggested that it could weaken the immune system and make the lungs more vulnerable to infections, while others linked this phenomenon to the fact that pollen particles can act as a “delivery vehicle” of the virus.
Dbuk and his university colleague Dimitris Drikakis tested the validity of the second theory by creating a realistic computer model of a blossoming willow and a group of several dozen people located next to it, among whom there are several carriers of the coronavirus infection.
Using this model, scientists calculated how the particles of coronavirus and pollen would interact, and also monitored how the spread of SARS-CoV-2 will change at different concentrations of pollen in the air and in its complete absence.
It turned out that pollen significantly accelerated the spread of coronavirus, even if the wind speed on the street was minimal. On average, pollen grains allow SARS-CoV-2 particles to fly more than six meters after being released into the air by coughing or sneezing of infected people. Under normal conditions, they fly no more than two meters.
As a result, sick pedestrians must transmit coronavirus to others much more often than it happens in the absence of pollen in the air. According to scientists, this feature of the interaction of pollen particles and the virus may explain why some regions of the United States and Europe, such as Louisiana and Spain, experienced unexplained summer spikes in the spread of COVID-19 last year.