When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the U.S., there was serious concern over surface transmission, as the virus can survive on surfaces for extended periods of time.
Months later, physicians and experts agree that there is relatively low risk of getting sick by touching a surface that has virus on it.
But researchers at San Francisco-based biotechnology company Phylagen believe that testing and monitoring surfaces for the coronavirus could still be useful in managing the pandemic.
"We should think of a surface as a proxy to what’s happened in the air previously," said Dr. Brad Taft, Chief Scientific Officer at Phylagen. "We don’t think of surfaces necessarily as being dangerous when they have coronavirus on them - you obviously shouldn’t lick them or anything like that - but we kind of use them as a way to monitor, have there been sick people in the space recently?"
Dr. Taft said this can be useful for employers or school administrators to use to find out if someone who is shedding the virus has passed through a workplace or school, without waiting for that person to possibly get tested for the virus and report their results.
Phylagen has developed surface testing kits that people can use to swab a surface and send it back to the company, where it will then be tested for the virus.
"The best places to test are the places where more of the population passes through," said Dr. Taft. That includes spaces like breakrooms, bathrooms or a shared hallway. "These spaces where people congregate or everyone needs to pass through or touch something is a really good way to monitor a population."
The virus is more likely to be found on high-touch surfaces like door handles, but also on surfaces where people may linger and breathe on, like a bathroom mirror or paper towel dispenser.