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

Sum by UK expert reveals ‘just a few mouthfuls’ worth of virus particles are driving the global coronavirus pandemic.

More than 2.34 million people have died of COVID-19 so far [File: Phil Noble/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 nearly two quintillion – or two billion billion – particles of the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV2, in the world at any one time.

Detailing the steps in his calculations in an article published on The Conversation news website, Yates said he used the diameter of SARS-CoV-2 – at an average of about 100 nanometers, or 100 billionths of a metre – and then figured out the volume of the spherical virus.

Even accounting for the coronavirus’s 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 (11.16 ounces) 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 of what would undoubtedly be the worst beverage in history,” Yates said in his article.

More than 2.34 million people have died of COVID-19 so far, and there have been nearly 107 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to data collated by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Source: Reuters