OCT 19, 2021 5:00 AM PDT

Air Surveillance Technology Sniffs Out Coronaviruses in the Room

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Imagine walking into a party where people were socializing (unmasked) in a confined space. With the ongoing pandemic not showing signs of backing down, this may ring alarm bells for some, particularly the unvaccinated or those with underlying health issues.

What if a device could sample the air in the room and alert if SARS-CoV-2 was detected?

Research by engineers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore could mean that such monitoring technology could soon become a reality.

In a study featured in the journal Indoor Air, the team describes how airborne surveillance systems could be implemented in high human traffic areas such as hospitals, office buildings, airports, and other public meeting places. Such platforms would also complement mass screening methods to help nip potential coronavirus outbreaks in the bud.

Picking up trace amounts of viral pathogens in the air is particularly challenging. This is because of the large air change rate—or how quickly air inside is replaced with outdoor air—in most buildings. For example, air change rates in isolation wards of hospitals range from 8 to 14 times per hour.

To overcome this challenge, the team combined a novel sampling system with ultra-low biomass analysis techniques. Together, these extract all RNA present in air samples.

The isolated RNA is then analyzed using real-time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR) to identify the presence of a target virus. This assay only requires low levels of detection viral RNA to confirm a positive result, so it is ideal for rapid screening.

The researchers validated their platform in a hospital setting, testing air samples alongside surface swab samples from common areas. They found that the devices that operated at a sampling flow rate of 150 liters per minute enhanced the chances of detecting SARS-CoV-2 compared to the lower flow rates. The air surveillance technique had a high success rate of 72 percent, whereas the surface swabs had a detection rate of only 9.6 percent.

These and other similar technologies can help ensure that people can begin to gather safely while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 infection.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
SEP 16, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Medical Opinions Are Often Divided, but Tech Can Bring Them Together
SEP 16, 2021
Medical Opinions Are Often Divided, but Tech Can Bring Them Together
Patients place their faith in medical professionals for making sound clinical decisions based on their diagnoses. But wh ...
OCT 04, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Zaki syndrome - Pediatric Disorder & Potential Treatment ID'ed
OCT 04, 2021
Zaki syndrome - Pediatric Disorder & Potential Treatment ID'ed
Since it's become quick and relatively inexpensive to sequence a human genome, researchers have gained unprecedented and ...
NOV 02, 2021
Coronavirus
COVID vaccines have saved 245,000 lives and counting
NOV 02, 2021
COVID vaccines have saved 245,000 lives and counting
What began in December 31, 2019 as a cluster of cases of pneumonia with an unknown etiology, quickly spread throughout t ...
NOV 16, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Algorithm Mines Big Data, Finds Gene Linked to Psychiatric Disease
NOV 16, 2021
Algorithm Mines Big Data, Finds Gene Linked to Psychiatric Disease
We have a wealth of human genome data overlaid with gene ‘hotspots’ linked to the development of particular ...
NOV 15, 2021
Health & Medicine
Alpha-synuclein as a Biomarker for Parkinson's Disease
NOV 15, 2021
Alpha-synuclein as a Biomarker for Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a widespread neurogenerative disorder that can significantly impact a person’s q ...
NOV 29, 2021
Health & Medicine
What is the Value of MRI After Acute Spinal Cord Injury?
NOV 29, 2021
What is the Value of MRI After Acute Spinal Cord Injury?
Your spine is made up of bones stabilized by multiple ligaments and muscles along its length. The spinal cord within the ...
Loading Comments...