AsianScientist (Jan. 7, 2021) – Researchers in South Korea have developed a disposable kit that can detect airborne viruses without needing to send samples back to the lab. Their findings were published in ACS Sensors.
Practices like social distancing and mask-wearing have certainly helped curb COVID-19’s spread, but it remains difficult to guarantee that public spaces—especially enclosed areas—are free from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While there are tests for detecting airborne pathogens, they come with several caveats.
Typically, these tests involve collecting samples of air from the field, after which these samples are whisked to the laboratory and respectively analyzed for the presence of a particular microorganism. These analyses typically take a few hours, while some can last several days. Although there are existing techniques for on-site analyses, these methods are usually unable to distinguish between specific microbes and require cleaning in between.
Given these limitations, researchers are continuously searching for better and more efficient ways to sample for airborne pathogens. One such effort comes from a collaborative research team from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST).
Led by KIST Associate Professor Lee Joonseok and GIST Professor Kim Min-Gon, the team developed an integrated platform that uses a disposable kit to easily collect and detect airborne viruses on-site. Combined, sample collection and detection using the kit takes only around 50 minutes, with no need for cleaning.
Similar to a pregnancy test, the platform works by collecting and concentrating the airborne virus particles on a glass fiber pad. Capillary action then pushes the virus to flow into the detection zone, where the particles bind to nanoprobes conjugated to virus-specific antibodies.
Once bound, discrete near-infrared signals are released and detected by the reader. This allows the platform to easily distinguish between the multiple kinds of viruses that may simultaneously exist in a sample.
As airborne viruses are usually affected by factors like air conditioning use, temperature and humidity, the team created an artificial chamber system to test the kit in a controlled manner.
Using the system, the researchers were able to sample avian influenza virus H1N1 taken from a large space, concentrate the virus by over a million-fold in the fiber pad and recover about 82 percent of the viruses attached to the detection zone’s surface.
“This platform supports an immediate analysis on the field-collected sample and can be implemented as an indoor air pollution monitoring system for diagnosing airborne biological hazards such as the COVID-19 virus,” concluded Lee.
Source: National Research Council of Science & Technology; Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Flickr.
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