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Pollen grains in the air promote the diffusion of COVID-19 by carrying SARS-CoV-2 particles




Computer models that simulate the movement of pollen grains from trees in crowded areas have the potential to accelerate the spread of COVID-19.

Tree pollen. Image Credit: Elisa Manzati /

Pollen particles as a new infectious agent

A general understanding of viral infections focuses on how viral particles can escape from one person and infect nearby people. However, it is important to take into account that other infectious agents also include environmental roles.

From the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers developed a model to explain the high rate of COVID-19 infection and found that virus particles persist on the surface for long periods of time and promote the spread of the virus.

New research reveals new environmental factors that were previously unconsidered. Authors Talib Dobuk and Dimitris Dorikakis, published in the Journal Physics of Fluids, investigated how pollen promotes the spread of RNA viruses such as the COVID-19 virus.

Researchers used computer model simulations to investigate the role of microscopic particles in how the virus is transmitted.

This hypothesis was first developed when researchers observed the correlation between COVID-19 infection rates and pollen levels on national allergy maps. Previous studies have already shown that trees can release 1,500 pollen grains per cubic meter into the air on heavy days, and each pollen grain carries hundreds of virus particles at a time, but in crowded areas. No one has yet considered such an outbreak.

As far as we know, this is the first time we have modeled and simulated how pollen microparticles in the air are transported by breeze and contribute to the transmission of airborne viruses in outdoor crowds. “

Dorika kiss

Dynamic environment agents may limit the effectiveness of social distance measurements

Researchers have simulated all parts of a calculated willow tree pollen-producing part of an outdoor rally of about 10 or 100 people, some of which emit COVID-19 particles and people. Was exposed to 10,000 pollen grains.

The model was then tuned on a typical spring day in the United States in terms of temperature, wind speed, and humidity. All of these can affect pollen transport.

Simulations show that pollen grains take less than a minute to pass through the crowd around the tree, the virus spreads quickly and easily, and can infect new individuals even when they are socially distant. Was shown.

Even if a distance of 6 feet was maintained between individuals, it was not sufficient to limit the risk of spreading the disease in such areas with high levels of pollen in the air.

Therefore, the authors advocate taking precautionary measures, such as distanced from seasonal factors, to better manage the risk of infection. Therefore, the risk of infection can be reduced, at least to some extent, by adopting measures such as social distance in areas known to have high pollen levels in the spring.

Further research will improve the simulation, such as whether a particular tree, region, or virus is likely to be transported.

One of the key challenges is the reproduction of a perfectly realistic environment for mature willow trees. This included thousands of leaves and pollen particles, hundreds of stems, and a realistic gathering of a crowd of about 100 people about 20 meters from the tree. “


First and foremost, this research is a new form COVID-19 infectionThe author also hopes to spur further research on plant fluid dynamics and the interaction of aerial pollen grains with the human respiratory system under a variety of environmental conditions. Nonetheless, this study is the first to show a new method of transmission by aerial virus infection and is particularly insightful in designing adaptive precautions against the current pandemic.

Journal reference:

  • Dbouk, T. And Drikakis, D. (2021) About pollen and aerial virus infection. Physics of Fluids, 33 (6), p.063313.


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