Superspreading of COVID-19 influenced by full-set of teeth and blocked nose, research claims

Superspreading is described as infecting a large section of their local population by one person. Now, scientists claim to have found at least two salient features common among super-spreaders – a full set of teeth and a completely blocked-up nose.

Using computer simulations to recreate different types of sneezes in different people, researchers mapped super-spreaders of COVID-19 and identified biological features that may influence the sneeze. The study has been published in the journal Physics of Fluids. The central objective of the study was to determine the influence of facial features on the sneeze-power, as in how far the expelled droplets could travel. Two features that seemed to increase this were stopped-up nose and a full set of teeth.

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The study co-author Michael Kinzel from Department of the Mechanical Engineering University of Central Florida said this information could help contain super spreading by identifying the super spreaders. He also said this is the first study which tries to understand why and how sneeze can travel far. The study tried to determine the distance of sneeze droplets and its lingering period in the air, as well as the factors that influence the path and velocity of the expelled sneeze.

They observed that a blocked nose increases both speed and the distance of the sneeze droplets. This happens because with a blocked nose the mouth becomes the only exit for the sneeze. With everything condensed to one exit, the force of expulsion is greater, so is the velocity and distance covered. With a clear nose, the path is bifurcated and spread decreases.

The presence of teeth can also affect the velocity of the sneeze. More teeth mean restricted exit area. Just like a watering hose, if you pinch the opening, the force of the water spouting increases. With less area, the sneeze expels with a much greater speed and goes farther. Inversely, those with less or no teeth may have weaker sneeze-related expulsion.

Both these factors combined increased the distance and speed by 60%. The researchers suggested blowing the nose regularly and keeping it free-flowing could be helpful in reducing the germ-spread. Additionally, they also observed that thinner saliva formed smaller droplets and lingered in the air longer. Medium and thick saliva fell towards the ground, diminishing the probability of spread.

Now, the team wants to perform clinical studies with a variety of real people (as these results are from computer simulations) to validate the results.