ROME — The Wuhan coronavirus will suffer a significant decline in activity as temperatures rise this summer, according to an Italian report published Tuesday on the relationship between the virus and temperature.
“Like all coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 is influenced in a decisive manner by the climate,” said Mario Bacco, a researcher at Meleam, which specializes in occupational medicine.
“In the laboratory we have seen that by increasing the temperature of the culture by a few degrees centigrade, bringing it to the range of 25-30 degrees C [77-86º F], approximately 53 percent of the strains do not survive and the rest show about 12 times less activity,” he said.
While Bacco and his team feel certain that the virus will diminish substantially during the summer months, they are less convinced that it will disappear altogether.
“In the summer, the virus is expected to exhibit limited activity with very slight aggressiveness, but since it manages to survive, it will probably reappear as temperatures drop,” Bacco notes. “In short, it will not go away entirely.”
“My idea is that it will not disappear, as SARS did,” he proposes. Being “sensitive to the climate, SARS-CoV-2 will always manifest itself more incisively in the colder areas of Italy.”
In the case of the 2003 SARS epidemic, researchers found that on days with a lower air temperature, the risk of increased daily incidence was 18-times higher than on days with a higher temperature, according to a study published by the NIH, a finding corroborated by other studies.
“Our observations show that the virus manifests some perceptible mutations, brought about in a short time,” Bacco said, in reference to COVID-19. “This makes us think more and more that the possibility of making a vaccine that can be objectively effective for a time worthy of consideration is scarce.”
“The observed mutations mainly concern genomic areas defined as introns, which are by definition noncoding,” he added.
“Finally, we are finding, with increasing frequency, viral protein strands in biological liquids. At the moment, this observation, while interesting, does not seem to have important repercussions on the evolution of the microorganism,” he said.
Bacco’s findings on the coronavirus’ sensitivity to heat replicate the results of earlier studies. As a flu-like disease — contagious viruses that cause respiratory illness — coronavirus has shown itself to be much more aggressive and contagious in colder climates.