What are microbiologists at PEROSH doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

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Anne Mette Madsen, NRCWE-DK; Alan Beswick, HSE-UK; Annette Kolk, DGUV-DE; Anne Oppliger, Unisanté, DSTE-CH; Philippe Duquenne, INRS-FR; Marcin Cyprowski, CIOP-PIB-PL; Pål Graff, STAMI-NO; Monika Raulf, DGUV-DE; Sirpa Laitinen, FIOH-FI; Manfred Hinker, AUVA-AT

From March 2020 the SARS-Coronavirus-2 has prompted changes for the working life of most people in Europe. For microbiologists working in the laboratories of some PEROSH members, these changes have meant that projects and tasks related to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic have jumped the queue while some current projects have been postponed.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the focus was on hand hygiene and close contact droplet transmission, and we as Occupational Safety and Health scientists were involved in the formulation of hygiene rules. As time passed, it was evident that research should also include airborne transmission, and going forward our work focus in relation to SARS-CoV-2 is on air transmission as well as on how to avoid exposure by direct contact transmission. Scientists from PEROSH institutes are working according to their institute’s national role or as part of national task forces.

Thus, we work with:

  • responding to questions raised about the correct use, re-use, and decontamination of different types of personal protective equipment (PPE). E.g. whether face visors are as effective as masks in protecting others from inhaling virus containing aerosols.
  • checking the quality and effectiveness of PPE made by non-specialist manufacturers including textile face coverings.
  • investigating methods for PPE decontamination and reuse as a last resort if supplies fail
  • providing advice on suitability of PPE for healthcare workers
  • literature review studies related to ventilation, air purification technologies including filtration and ultraviolet disinfection.
  • literature review dealing with the survival and transmission routes of Sars-CoV-2.
  • determination of the minimal distance between musicians in an orchestra to avoid transmission between ensemble players.
  • the potential for exposure to airborne SARS-CoV-2 in various occupational settings, e.g. waste water treatment plants, health care facilities, elevators, and offices.
  • spread and transmission of airborne SARS-CoV2 between rooms e.g. during aerosol generating procedures at dental surgeries and modelling of this.
  • literature review and development of methods for sampling and identification of airborne viruses.

Concerning hand transmission, we have received questions about how to handle goods which are potentially contaminated with SARS-CoV-2.  

Methods for diagnosis is also a topic of interest and our focus is on:

  • responding to questions about the relevance and performance of different methods for rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the SARS-CoV-2-antibody immune response
  • testing of the population for SARS-CoV-2

Knowledge of all of this is gathered and used for:

  • development of tools for risk assessment
  • proof-of-concept of safety solutions to control the risk of workplace transmission

To address knowledge gaps that are relevant for occupational health we are involved in the formulation of new research applications about SARS-CoV-2. As part of the work related to SARS-CoV-2, we benefit from the established cooperation between the different PEROSH institutes. This collaborative approach is facilitating our work.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, PEROSH took the initiative to set up an online platform hosted by its Austrian member AUVA for intensified collaboration between its members on issues related to the protection against the corona virus. There were many questions on testing and certification of respiratory protective equipment and the platform assisted in sharing experiences, testing protocols and other insights. Gradually, the discussions on the platform moved to return to work guidelines.

More information: info@perosh.eu

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PEROSH comprises 14 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) institutes

The PEROSH partners aim to coordinate and cooperate on European research and development efforts in occupational safety and health.

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