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Coronavirus Explainers

New Air Monitor Can Detect Covid Variants In About Five Minutes

The device can be used in hospitals and health care facilities, schools and public places to help detect SARS-CoV-2 and potentially monitor for other respiratory virus aerosols, such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

New Air Monitor Can Detect Covid Variants In About Five Minutes
Air enters the sampler at very high velocities and gets mixed centrifugally with the fluid that lines the walls of the sampler to create a surface vortex, thereby trapping the virus aerosols.

New Delhi: Researchers have developed a real-time air monitor that they say can detect any of the SARS-CoV-2 virus variants in a room in about five minutes. The inexpensive, proof-of-concept device was developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, US, by combining recent advances in aerosol sampling technology and an ultrasensitive biosensing technique.

The device can be used in hospitals and health care facilities, schools and public places to help detect SARS-CoV-2 and potentially monitor for other respiratory virus aerosols, such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Also Read: Covid Cases In India Lowest Since February 2020: Union Health Ministry

Results of their work on the monitor, which they say is the most sensitive detector available, are published in the journal Nature Communications. John Cirrito, a professor of neurology at Washington University, said,

There is nothing at the moment that tells us how safe a room is. If you are in a room with 100 people, you don’t want to find out five days later whether you could be sick or not. The idea with this device is that you can know essentially in real time, or every 5 minutes, if there is a live virus.

The researchers had previously developed a micro-immunoelectrode (MIE) biosensor that detects amyloid beta as a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease and wondered if it could be converted into a detector for SARS-CoV-2.

To do so, they exchanged the antibody that recognises amyloid beta for a nanobody from llamas that recognises the spike protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

David Brody, a former faculty member at Washington University, and an author on the paper, developed the nanobody in his lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The nanobody is small, easy to reproduce and modify and inexpensive to make, the researchers said. Carla Yuede, an associate professor at Washington University, said,

The nanobody-based electrochemical approach is faster at detecting the virus because it doesn’t need a reagent or a lot of processing steps. SARS-CoV-2 binds to the nanobodies on the surface, and we can induce oxidation of tyrosines on the surface of the virus using a technique called square wave voltammetry to get a measurement of the amount of virus in the sample.

Air enters the sampler at very high velocities and gets mixed centrifugally with the fluid that lines the walls of the sampler to create a surface vortex, thereby trapping the virus aerosols.

The wet cyclone sampler has an automated pump that collects the fluid and sends it to the biosensor for seamless detection of the virus using electrochemistry. Rajan Chakrabarty, a professor at Washington University, said,

The challenge with airborne aerosol detectors is that the level of virus in the indoor air is so diluted that it even pushes toward the limit of detection of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and is like finding a needle in a haystack. The high virus recovery by the wet cyclone can be attributed to its extremely high flow rate, which allows it to sample a larger volume of air over a 5-minute sample collection compared with commercially available samplers.

The team tested the monitor in the apartments of two COVID-positive patients. The real-time PCR results of air samples from the bedrooms were compared with air samples collected from a virus-free control room.

The devices detected RNA of the virus in the air samples from the bedrooms but did not detect any in the control air samples.

In laboratory experiments that aerosolised SARS-CoV-2 into a room-sized chamber, the wet cyclone and biosensor were able to detect varying levels of airborne virus concentrations after only a few minutes of sampling.

Also Read: COVID-19 Pandemic Highlighted Health Infrastructural Gaps In India And Measures To Bridge Them: Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toiletsare used and open defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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