Suspensions of transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), a porcine coronavirus, were nebulized at rates of 0.1-0.2 ml/min into moving air using a Collison nebulizer or a plastic medical nebulizer operating at pressures ranging from 7 to 15 psi. The airborne viruses were collected on heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) filters in an experimental apparatus and also sampled upstream of these test filters using AGI-30 and BioSampler impinger samplers. To study the effects of relative humidity (RH) on TGEV collection by the filters and samplers, the virus was nebulized into air at 30, 50, 70, and 90% RH. There were no significant changes in virus titer in the nebulizer suspension before and after nebulization for either nebulizer at any of the pressures utilized. Aerosolization efficiency - the ratio of viable virus sampled with impingers to the quantity of viable virus nebulized - decreased with increasing humidity. BioSamplers detected more airborne virus than AGI-30 samplers at all RH levels. This difference was statistically significant at 30 and 50% RH. Nebulizer type and pressure did not significantly affect the viability of the airborne virus. Virus recovery from test filters relative to the concentration of virus in the nebulizer suspension was less than 10%. The most and the least virus were recovered from filter media at 30% and 90% RH, respectively. The results suggest that TGEV, and perhaps other coronaviruses, remain viable longer in an airborne state and are sampled more effectively at low RH than at high humidity.
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Acknowledgements This study was supported in part by a grant from the Pilot Project Research Training Program of the NIOSH-sponsored Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety at the University of Minnesota, by Minnesota Medical Foundation award 3660-9227-06, and by a Nontenured Faculty Grant from 3M Company.