Investigation of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in German meat processing plant published in scientific journal

Study highlights coronavirus transmission over long distances

In a joint study of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), and the Heinrich-Pette-Institute, Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology (HPI), the origins of the first SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in May 2020 at Tönnies in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Germany's largest meat processing complex, were investigated. The study was published on the preprint platform SSRN in July 2020. The results have now been peer-reviewed and were published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Raw meat processing in meat factory© bannafarsai/AdobeStock In an expert statement, Prof Melanie Brinkmann, head of the research group "Viral Immune Modulation" at the HZI, comments on the results: “Our investigation of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the meat industry shows that the conditions in the processing plant - physical work, low temperature, low fresh air supply and air circulation by air conditioning systems - allowed the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by aerosols over long distances. It is likely that these factors play a crucial role in the global outbreaks in meat processing plants. Under these indoor climate conditions, a distance of 1.5 to 3 metres alone is not sufficient to reliably prevent transmissions.” Brinkmann is professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig and research group leader at the HZI.

Here you can find the press release on the study.

In this video (in German), Prof Melanie Brinkmann and study co-author Prof Adam Grundhoff (Heinrich-Pette-Institute, Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology) discuss the findings of the study with science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar.

Original publication:

Thomas Günther, Manja Czech‐Sioli, Daniela Indenbirken, Alexis Robitaille, Peter Tenhaken, Martin Exner, Matthias Ottinger, Nicole Fischer, Adam Grundhoff, Melanie M. Brinkmann: SARS‐CoV‐2 outbreak investigation in a German meat processing plant. EMBO Mol Med (2020)0:e202013296. doi: 10.15252/emmm.202013296

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