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REALM project releases results from tests of virus on materials at different temperatures

Research produces science-based information to help mitigate exposure to coronavirus in archives, libraries, and museums


DUBLIN, Ohio, 11 February 2021—The REALM project has released results from two rounds of scientific tests to determine how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 can remain on materials found in archives, libraries, and museums at temperatures colder and warmer than previous tests.

For the latest two rounds of testing, Tests 7 and 8, materials were held at colder (34 to 36°F; 1 to 4°C) and warmer (83 to 84°F; 28 to 29°C) temperatures. Tests 1 through 6 measured the attenuation time of virulent SARS-CoV-2 virus applied to materials held at ambient room temperature (68 to 75°F; 20 to 24°C).

Tests 7 and 8 examined a hardcover book cover, a softcover book cover, a plastic protective cover, and expanded polyethylene foam. Samples of each material were inoculated with active virus, allowed to dry, and then placed in an environmentally controlled chamber with no outside light or air.

Results show that attenuation rates for materials held at the colder temperature was significantly slower compared to the warmer and ambient temperatures, with detectable levels of active virus still present at day 10. In contrast, at the higher temperatures, the virus was undetected on all materials except the plastic protective cover by day 6; this was a slightly faster attenuation time than what occurred at ambient temperatures. (See Test 7 and 8 results.)

This data suggests that additional considerations may need to be evaluated regarding outdoor collection boxes, or storage in colder conditions. For institutions using quarantine periods, this research can impact when to start the quarantine "clock" once a material is brought into a controlled environment. Data also suggests that, when possible, storage in warmer areas may help to shorten the length of quarantine.

The REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project is designed to generate scientific information to support the handling of core library, museum, and archival materials as these institutions resume operations and reopen to the public. As part of this research, the project is studying how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus survives on common materials and methods to mitigate exposure.

The REALM project also makes available a compilation of SARS-CoV-2 scientific research, which summarizes current research on how the virus spreads, its survival on materials and surfaces, and the effectiveness of various prevention and decontamination measures. The research review highlights growing evidence that direct contact and respiratory droplets appear to be the primary modes of spread, and that aerosols may be a contributor to infection.

These findings add to the evolving scientific understanding regarding SARS-CoV-2, which still includes uncertainties about: how much virus is shed by an infected person through coughing, sneezing, talking, breathing, etc.; how much virus is needed to infect someone; and the likelihood of a person becoming infected indirectly through contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.

The project also provides toolkit resources to support archives, libraries, and museums. A new resource that synthesizes information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on cleaning and disinfecting considerations is now available.

The REALM project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal funding for museums and libraries; and OCLC, a nonprofit library technology and research organization; in partnership with Battelle, a not-for-profit, independent global scientific research and development organization.

Project updates are posted at oc.lc/realm-project as they become available. Those interested can also sign up through the project website to receive timely email updates when new information is released.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America's museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Battelle

Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. For more information, visit www.battelle.org.

About OCLC

OCLC is a nonprofit global library cooperative providing shared technology services, original research and community programs so that libraries can better fuel learning, research and innovation. Through OCLC, member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the most comprehensive global network of data about library collections and services. Libraries gain efficiencies through OCLC’s WorldShare, a complete set of library management applications and services built on an open, cloud-based platform. It is through collaboration and sharing of the world’s collected knowledge that libraries can help people find answers they need to solve problems. Together as OCLC, member libraries, staff and partners make breakthroughs possible.

OCLC, WorldCat, WorldCat.org and WorldShare are trademarks and/or service marks of OCLC, Inc. Third-party product, service and business names are trademarks and/or service marks of their respective owners.


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