Viruses stick to microplastics, survive in water for up to three days, and can continue to spread thereafter

Microplastics are those small particles of this material that are released by everyday objects. Now a group of scientists from the University of Stirling have shown for the first time that viruses can survive and remain infectious if they bind to microplastics in fresh water.

The studypublished in ‘Science Direct’ was the first to explore the problem of using water drawn from the natural environment. This discovery raised concerns about its potential impact on human health.

Scientists from the Scottish University have discovered that the rotavirus, a virus that causes diarrhea and upset stomachsurvives up to three days in lake water by adhering to microplastic surfaces.

Also, in a communicated Professor and researcher Richard Quilliam discovered that these viruses stick to plastic particles survive for three days or “maybe more”. This work was carried out to study how microplastics can help carry bacteria and viruses and what their impact is on human health.

Quilliam explained that, even in a sewage treatment plant, which tries to clean out all the debris that is in the liquid, some microplastics still remain. “Then they are transported down the river, towards the estuary, and end up on the beach”, explains the researcher.

Therefore, scientists have devoted their efforts to check if viruses “hitchhiked” on plastic and thus managed to survive and remain contagious. To test their hypotheses, the researchers tested two types of viruses: those with an envelope or “lipid envelope”, like the flu virus, and those without, like rotavirus and norovirus.

After their experiments, the group found that in those who wore a cape, it dissolved quickly and the viruses did not adhere to the plastic and could not continue to infect. However, those who did not have said envelope they successfully bonded to microplastics and survived.

Viruses last longer in plastics

On the other hand, the researchers clarified that viruses can also “adhere to natural surfaces” present in the environment. However, as Quilliam pointed out, viruses last longeror on microplastics than on natural spaces.

Also, he pointed out that “It doesn’t take a lot of virus particles to make you sick”for which he called for special care with children when they are on the beach and put things in their mouths, as they may contain virus-infected microplastics.

Finally, Quilliam opened the door to future research on viruses in microplastics: “This research is really a proof of concept to do more research on how long pathogens survive by attaching to microplastics, since we only tested for three days, and what then comes to them.”


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