The device can be used in hospitals, healthcare facilities, schools, and public places to help detect COVID-19 and potentially monitor for other respiratory virus aerosols, such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.
“The idea with this device is that you can know essentially in real-time, or every five minutes if there is a live virus in the air,” said John Cirrito, a professor of neurology at the Washington University’s School of Medicine.
The interdisciplinary team of researchers from the McKelvey School of Engineering and the School of Medicine consists of Rajan Chakrabarty, the Harold D. Jolley career development associate professor of energy, environmental, and chemical engineering in McKelvey Engineering, Joseph Puthussery, a postdoctoral research associate in Chakrabarty’s lab; Cirrito, a professor of neurology at the School of Medicine; and Carla Yuede, an associate professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine.
The research team states that the proof-of-concept device is the most sensitive virus detector available. It combines advances in aerosol sampling technology and an ultrasensitive biosensing technique and uses a biosensor made with nanobodies integrated into an air sampler.
The team tested the monitor in the apartments of two COVID-positive patients. The air sample results 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 none in the control air samples.
The monitor is about one ft. wide and 10 inches tall and lights up when a virus is detected, alerting administrators to increase airflow or circulation in the room.
Puthussery explained how most commercial bioaerosol samplers operate at relatively low flow rates while the team’s monitor has a flow rate of about 1,000 litres per minute.
The team added it is working to commercialize the air quality monitor.