COVID maths: All the virus in the world would fit in a coke can

LONDON (Reuters) – All the COVID-causing virus circulating in the world right now could easily fit inside a single cola can, according to a calculation by a British mathematician whose sum exposes just how much devastation is caused by minuscule viral particles.

Using global rates of new infections with the pandemic disease, coupled with estimations of viral load, Bath University maths expert Kit Yates worked out there are around two quintillion – or two billion billion – SARS-CoV-2 virus particles in the world at any one time.

This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. NIAID-RML/Handout via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT

Detailing the steps in his calculations, Yates said he used the diameter of SARS-CoV-2 – at an average of about 100 nanometers, or 100 billionths of a meter – and then figured out the volume of the spherical virus.

Even accounting for the coronavirus’ projecting spike proteins and the fact that the spherical particles will leave gaps when stacked together, the total is still less than in a single 330 millilitre (ml) cola can, he said.

“It’s astonishing to think that all the trouble, the disruption, the hardship and the loss of life that has resulted over the last year could constitute just a few mouthfuls,” Yates said in a statement.

More than 2.34 million people have died in the COVID-19 pandemic so far, and there have been almost 107 million confirmed cases worldwide.

 

Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Alexandra Hudson

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-maths/covid-maths-all-the-virus-in-the-world-would-fit-in-a-coke-can-idUSKBN2AA1B6