According to a British mathematician, a single coke might be big enough to contain all the COVID-19-causing viruses currently circulating in the world.
Bath University mathematics expert Kit Yates worked out that at any time around there are two quintillion – or two billion – SARS-CoV-2 virus particles are in the world.
His work reveals just how much devastation minuscule viral particles cause.
“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,” he said.
Dr Yates has previously written a book entitled The Maths of Life and Death, which focuses on unusual questions with quirky mathematical equations.
He was tasked by BBC Radio 4 to work out how many coronavirus particles there are in the world and how large a room this took up.
He started with the known quantities: how large the virus is; how many people have the virus; and at any one point, how much of the virus each person has.
Detailing the steps in his calculations, Mr Yates stated that he used the SARS-CoV-2 diameter – approximately 100 nanometers on average, or 100 billionths of a meter – and then calculated the volume of the spherical virus.
Peak viral load — the most virus a person has in their system at any one time — is up to 100,000,000,000 particles.
This peak comes six days after the person is infected and forms a traditional bell curve with slopes on either side of the peak, slightly shallower on one side than on the other, as it takes more than a week for the body to clear the virus out of the system.
Even accounting for the 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 cola can, he said.
So far, more than 2.34 million people have died in the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly 107 million confirmed cases have occurred worldwide.
In the midst of a continuous surge in cases and deaths, vaccination programmes are taking place worldwide.