Why Does the SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC Spread So Rapidly? Universal Conditions for the Rapid Spread of Respiratory Viruses, Minimum Viral Loads for Viral Aerosol Generation, Effects of Vaccination on Viral Aerosol Generation, and Viral Aerosol Clouds.Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 17; 18(18)IJ
This study analyzes the reasons the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Delta variant of concern (VOC) spreads so rapidly. Novel topics such as universal conditions for the rapid spread of respiratory viruses, minimum viral loads for viral aerosol generation, effects of vaccination on viral aerosol generation, and viral aerosol clouds were studied. The analyses were based on experimental results and analytic model studies. Four universal conditions, namely asymptomatic host, high viral load, stability of viruses in air, and binding affinity of viruses to human cells, need to be satisfied for the rapid spread of respiratory viruses. SARS-CoV-2 and its variants such as the Alpha VOC and Delta VOC satisfy the four fundamental conditions. In addition, there is an original principle of aerosol generation of respiratory viruses. Assuming that the aerosol-droplet cutoff particle diameter for distinguishing potential aerosols from earthbound respiratory particles is 100 μm, the minimum viral load required in respiratory fluids to generate viral aerosols is ~106 copies mL-1, which is within the range of the reported viral loads in the Alpha VOC cases and the Delta VOC cases. The daily average viral loads of the Delta VOC in hosts have been reported to be between ~109 copies mL-1 and ~1010 copies mL-1 during the four days after symptom onset in 1848 cases of the Delta VOC infection. Owing to the high viral load, the SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC has the potential to effectively spread through aerosols. COVID-19 vaccination can decrease aerosol transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 Alpha VOC by reducing the viral load. The viral load can explain the conundrum of viral aerosol spreading. The SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC aerosol clouds have been assumed to be formed in restricted environments, resulting in a massive numbers of infected people in a very short period with a high spreading speed. Strong control methods against bioaerosols should be considered in this SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC pandemic. Large-scale environmental monitoring campaigns of SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC aerosols in public places in many countries are necessary, and these activities could contribute to controlling the coronavirus disease pandemic.