A study from Kyoto Prefectural University in Japan has concluded that the omicron variant is able to survive longer on plastic and skin than other SARS-CoV-2 variants, which could help explain the rapid spread of the variant.

As explained in the results, published in the specialized journal bioRxiv, the authors of the study applied different covid variants to plastic surfaces and human skin (extracted from autopsies) and measured the survival time of each variant, considering that the virus survived as long as it could be detected.

An explanation for the fast spread of the omicron

Using this approach, they concluded that omicron has the highest environmental stability among the variants of concern, suggesting that this stability may also be one of the factors that have enabled the omicron variant to replace delta and spread so rapidly.

In plastic, the omicron samples lasted, on average, 193.5 hours, just over 8 days. In comparison, the other survival times in plastic were 56 hours for the original strain, 191.3 for the alpha, 156.6 for the beta, 59.3 for the gamma and 114 for the delta.

In skin, the omicron samples survived on average 21.1 hours. The original version survived 6.6 hours, alpha 19.6, beta 19.1, gamma 11 and delta 16.8.

Hand-cleaning measures

In addition, the researchers found that the variants had somewhat higher ethanol resistance than the original strain, although all of them were inactivated after being exposed for 15 seconds to alcohol-based disinfectant gels.

They therefore recommend that current infection control should include a strong emphasis on hand-cleaning measures using disinfectants, as has been the practice during the pandemic.

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