Low cost, chromatography-based system for broad-spectrum detection of viruses

Airborne spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) by infectious aerosol is all but certain. However, easily implemented approaches to assess the actual environmental threat are currently unavailable. We present a simple approach with the potential to rapidly provide information about the prevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2) in the atmosphere at any location. We used a portable dehumidifier as a readily available and affordable tool to collect airborne virus in the condensate over three separate periods of one week. Samples were analyzed frequently for both virus envelope protein and SARS-CoV-2 RNA. In several samples across separate deployments, condensate from dehumidifiers tested positive for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antigens as confirmed using two independent assays. RNA was detected, but not attributable to SARS-CoV-2. We verified the ability of the dehumidifier to rapidly collect aerosolized sodium chloride. Our results point to a facile pool testing method to sample air in any location in the world and assess the presence and concentration of an infectious agent to obtain quantitative risk assessment of exposure, designate zones as “hot spots” and minimize the need for individual testing which may often be time consuming, expensive, and laborious. In addition, we are also currently developing a low cost, chromatography-based system for the broad-spectrum detection of viruses.

Related Publication:

Moitra, P., Alafeef, M., Dighe, K., Ray, P., Chang, J., Thole, A., … & Rao, G. (2021). Rapid and low‐cost sampling for detection of airborne SARS‐CoV‐2 in dehumidifier condensate. Biotechnology and bioengineering118(8), 3029-3036. https://doi.org/10.1002/bit.27812