Measurement of SARS-CoV-2 in air and on surfaces in Scottish hospitals

Miranda Loh, Nicola Yaxley, Ginny Moore, David Holmes, Susanne Todd, Alice Smith, Ewan Macdonald, Sean Semple, Mark Cherrie, Manish Patel, Raymond Hamill, Alastair Leckie, Stephanie J. Dancer, John W. Cherrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are still uncertainties in our knowledge of the amount of SARS-CoV-2 virus present in the environment; where it can be found, and potential exposure determinants, limiting our ability to effectively model and compare interventions for risk management.

This study measured SARS-CoV-2 in three hospitals in Scotland on surfaces and air, alongside ventilation and patient care activities.

Air sampling at 200 L/min for 20 minutes and surface sampling were performed in two wards designated to treat COVID-19 -positive patients and two non-COVID-19 wards across three hospitals in November and December 2020.

Detectable samples of SARS-CoV-2 were found in COVID-19 treatment wards but not in non-COVID-19 wards. Most samples were below assay detection limits, but maximum concentrations reached 1.7x103 genomic copies/m3 in air and 1.9x104 copies per surface swab (3.2x102 copies/cm2 for surface loading). The estimated geometric mean air concentration (geometric standard deviation) across all hospitals was 0.41 (71) genomic copies/m3 and the corresponding values for surface contamination were 2.9 (29) copies/swab. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was found in non-patient areas (patient/visitor waiting rooms and personal protective equipment (PPE) changing areas) associated with COVID-19 treatment wards.

Non-patient areas of the hospital may pose risks for infection transmission and further attention should be paid to these areas. Standardization of sampling methods will improve understanding of levels of environmental contamination. The pandemic has demonstrated a need to review and act upon the challenges of older hospital buildings meeting current ventilation guidance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Early online date5 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Environmental sampling
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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