One step before corona

Virus detection from the air and on surfaces – a new method for prevention and safety

A domestic testing laboratory has a novel approach to corona virus detection: the pathogen agent is measured from the air of offices and indoor areas, or on the surface of various objects, thus playing in important role in prevention and prediction. The test may be reassuring to responsible employers a great extent, since the workflows can be safety planned while preserving the good health of employees. The expert from WESSLING Knowledge Centre, the developer of the method gave in interview to Laboratorium.hu.

As it is known, the corona virus is propagated mainly by droplet infection: infected individuals disperse viruses in aerosols (by way of breathing out, speak, coughing, sneezing) into the ambient air, where the virus is able to spread by attaching to the surface of a particle (aerosol droplet or dust). When flowing in the ventilation system it sticks to various objects, is swirled into the air again from there and can thus be inhaled – Dr. Adrienn Micsinai, head of laboratory at WESSLING Hungary Kft. told us, stressing also: the laboratory can mainly assist entities in measuring whether or not the air in the premises contains viruses.

How this entirely novel approach is applied?

Sampling of the air takes place using a special instrument used in accordance with a method certified by an ISO standard. One hundred and twenty litres of air is pumped across a purpose built filter arrangement and the sample taken this way is subjected to the already well known Real Time PCR test. As the virus’ genetic material is an RNA molecule, it is converted into the DNA using the so called reverse transcription method, to identify the pathogen beyond doubt.

In the course of the air testing protocol, implemented with the cooperation of a number of professional fields and experts (air sampling, microbiology, GMO) 10-100 virus particles can be detected just as well from 1 m3 of air, which roughly equals the infective dose.

Sampling is best accomplished at high risk locations where many people turn up without masques (such as a canteen). Since the infection route of the corona virus includes surfaces just as well, air tests are supplemented and confirmed by surface testing, which can also be instrumental this way in identifying focal points of infection. Samples can be taken from a number of places such as the button of an elevator, or – just to stick to the example with the canteen – from the buffet counter, dining table, handles of doors. During the microbiological sampling process surfaces are wiped with a stick and the stick is used to carry out the REAL Time PCR measurement later on. The method is based on the internationally recognised procedures published by WHO and the American CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention).

 

Why is the examination of the air and surfaces so important?

It turns out from the official notice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) published in August that SARS-CoV-2 RNS reproduction can be detected from environmental samples a couple of days before it could be identified in humans. In other words, environmental monitoring can be conveniently used for forecasting and to supplement clinical observations as the position statement of WHO claims.

“The most important benefit of this method maybe is that we learn about the level of risk in the environment where we move around, work and live, it turns out if there is any contagious person in the neighbourhood, it cleaning efficiency satisfactory” – Adrienn Micsinai listed.

“We can provide help before infection and disease, in other words this is not a retrospective test, environmental monitoring is one step before the corona virus!” – the expert added, highlighting: naturally, the chances are that you get the virus even when the test results are negative. Yet, the potential was reduced substantially.

“This virus is a fact, it is here among us and once you can really see its presence, everybody will take personal and other hygiene a lot more seriously. That is, measurements provide a great help to company managers and employers in handling of and providing visibility to the virus” – the expert said, adding: it is our common responsibility to adhere to all and any hygienic rules in our environment.