The COVID-19 can survive long exposure to high temperatures, a study by a team of researchers at Aix-Marseille University in southern France found.
The team heated the coronavirus (COVID-19) at 92 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, 60 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes, and 56 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, according to the research paper published on journal bioRxiv.org on Saturday April 18, 2020.
While the high temperatures significantly reduced the effectiveness of the virus, it was still able to replicate, i.e. capable of starting another round of infection in its host.
their results suggest that a higher heat of 92 degree Celsius for 15 minutes is necessary for complete COVID-19 virus inactivation.
The most common protocol for deactivating a virus is the one-hour 60 degrees Celsius heating, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. This protocol is used to deactivate viruses with high mortality rates, such as the Ebola virus.
The results of this study have dangerous implications for laboratory workers conducting tests on samples to determine whether they are positive or not for COVID-19 virus.
Laboratory workers across the globe use the common one-hour 60 degrees Celsius protocol to deactivate deadly viruses before processing test samples.
However, as this study shows, that protocol is not very effective with the coronavirus, putting lab workers at high risk of contracting the virus while doing their jobs.
Now, while the higher temperature protocol has proven to deactivate the virus completely, the high temperatures could also significantly fragment the virus’ RNA, the molecules which carry the unique genetic code of the virus. This reduces the sensitivity of the test and increases the probability of false negative results.
The researchers suggest using chemicals instead of the near boiling temperature to deactivate the virus, enabling laboratory workers to maintain their safety without compromising the efficiency of the COVID-19 test too much.
“The results presented in this study should help to choose the best suited protocol for inactivation in order to prevent exposure of laboratory personnel in charge of direct and indirect detection of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) for diagnostic purposes,” they wrote.
Jeremy Rossman, Senior Lecturer in Virology at the University of Kent, U.K., who was not involved in the research, said the findings had important implications for laboratory workers, and could help provide guidance for people researching and performing diagnostics on SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus).