Hungarian scientists at the Semmelweis University poked and prodded a live coronavirus organism repeatedly, only to find out that it is largely impervious to physical force that would destroy most other similar organisms, the university announced in an article.
“This is proof that the SARS-CoV-2 could be one of the most flexible, physically most resilient viruses known to man,” the article said.
The method used was that of atomic force microscopy, in which the properties of a sample of any given material are poked with a nanometer-sized needle tip and then the electrical response is measured, a process that can yield results with a resolution 1,000 times higher than that of simple optical observation.
In the experiments, a live and active coronavirus sample with a diameter of about 80 nanometers was repeatedly prodded with a needle whose tip is a single atom wide. The research group led by dr. Miklós Kellermayer found that even when the virus’ opposing outer walls have been squashed together like a rubber ball, as they withdrew the probe the virus regained its original form without any damage to its internal structure. Even after repeating the procedure 100 times, the virus showed no signs of degradation, excepts for losing some if its protein “thorns”, which give its distinctive appearance and where its name comes from.
The virus’s “corona” reacted with such speed to the physical intrusion that even the 300-images-per-second scanning equipment could only record a blurred image of the changes.
The Hungarian experiment was also unique in that so far only inactive or frozen samples have been tested. The experiment also showed that — probably due to the thorns it is covered in — the virus can survive much longer outside a host organism than other viruses, even after being exposed to a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius for ten minutes, where it only lost a few of its thorns without any damage to its internal structure.
The scientists said this could explain why the virus remains highly infectious even in hot climates or during the summer.
The Hungarian team also counted the number of thorns, and found that it had 61, while a study of Cambridge University indicated 24 thorns and that of the German Max Planck Institute about 40 thorns. Kellermayer said this was proof that the virus has a greater variety than previously thought.
Title image: Illustration of atomic force microscope test.