Superspreading events were flagged early in the pandemic, with coronavirus-positive individuals unwittingly infecting others at choir practices or on cruise ships.
While the close proximity of a coronavirus patient to others will inevitably raise the risk of transmission, certain individuals were thought to exhale a higher number of infected droplets from the mucus in their airways.
To learn more, Harvard scientists analysed the respiratory particles emitted by 194 healthy volunteers.
Results reveal some of the individuals exhaled three times more aerosols than others, with just 18% of the volunteers behind 80% of the total particles emitted.
This was particularly true among the older volunteers and those with an elevated body mass index (BMI).
Aerosols are considerably smaller than droplets, with the latter measuring as little as 0.005mm across. The relatively heavy droplets are quickly subject to gravity, potentially contaminating surfaces, while lighter aerosols linger unseen in the air for up to several hours.