COVID-19 air monitor being developed

Man coughing Covid-19 into the air

Scientists from Washington University have created an air monitoring device that can detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19 infection. This is the first real-time monitoring device that directly samples and detects COVID virus particles every 5 minutes. The prototype was designed by researchers at the McKelvey School of Engineering and the School of Medicine. They evaluated the air quality monitor in a laboratory setting and in two apartments housing COVID-19-infected individuals. The results were published in Nature Communications and showed that the air monitor was highly effective. The sensitivity of the air monitor was 77-83%, meaning that it successfully identified a COVID-positive individual in the room about 80% of the time. The biosensor in the monitor can detect all COVID variants because it detects the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.

The new air monitoring device uses something called “wet cyclone technology.” As described in Forbes, air is sucked in at very high speeds and mixed with a fluid containing a nanobody that recognizes the spike protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The fluid traps the virus aerosols. The fluid is collected and sent to the biosensor for detection of the virus using electrochemistry. The entire monitor is small, so could easily be moved from one place to another.

SARS-CoV-2 air monitor,
Washington University scientists developed the first real-time air monitor. See diagram details.

Public health officials have been hampered in identifying areas containing the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There was previously no way to tell if a particular area was free of the virus. When the new air quality monitor is commercially available, hospitals, schools, and any indoor spaces where people congregate can be monitored in real time. A red light turns on to alert people that the virus has been detected. Even better, the same technology can be tweaked to detect other viruses, such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and influenza.

For more information on treatments for COVID-19, check out this recent information about metformin and Long COVID.

Linda Brent, PhD

Executive Director, Parsemus Foundation

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