The BioTesting Division (BTD) will soon begin a study to determine how severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is transmitted among airline passengers. The efficacy of practices to decontaminate the virus that causes COVID-19 will also be studied. Testing begins in mid November and goes through March 2021.
A section of a jet airliner fuselage, containing three rows of seats, five windows, overhead storage bins, armrests and folding seat-back trays was trucked to Dugway Proving Ground for the test. Outside air will pass through the fuselage’s intact ventilation system, to study interior airflow and how the virus is disseminated.
SARS-CoV-2, which causes the COVID19 disease, will be used only in industrially filtered and sealed labs at BTD. MS2, a virus that infects E. coli bacteria but is harmless to humans, will simulate SARSCoV-2 outside the labs as required.
“MS2 has been used a lot in these kind of decontamination studies,” said Test Officer Angelo Madonna of BTD, which resides on DPG, but it is a tenant unit under the command of the CCDC Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Two commercial sprayers and two commercial liquid disinfectants will be tried in different combinations on surfaces in the passenger area to gauge effectiveness. “They also want to know if the virus can be disinfected when it’s airborne,” Madonna said.
Part of this trial includes a machine that replicates the release of particles by human coughing, sneezing and speaking and is combined with artificial saliva developed in the lab.
A variety of trials will explore, using the MS2 simulant, how SARS-CoV-2 travels within a commercial airliner’s fuselage. The most practical and effective means to decontaminate, hoping to make airline travel safer without long delays and setup, will also be examined. This includes ultraviolet light’s effectiveness against aerosolized viruses.
Also, samples of fabric and plastic taken from the passenger area will be contaminated in the filtered lab with the MS2 virus, then disinfected with current equipment and methods, to determine the effectiveness.
Ultimately, the varied testing conducted at BTD is expected to advance our understanding of the transmission and decontamination of SARS-CoV-2, which has infected more than 47 million people worldwide with the COVID-19 disease.