Researchers have used active air sampling devices to detect airborne SARS-CoV-2 in indoor settings; however, these monitors are typically large, expensive, non-portable, and require electricity.
Krystal Pollitt and colleagues wanted to develop a small, lightweight, inexpensive, and wearable device that doesn’t require a power source to better understand personal exposures to the virus.
The researchers developed a wearable passive air sampler, the Fresh Air Clip, that continually adsorbs virus-laden aerosols on a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) surface.
The team tested the air sampler in a rotating drum in which they generated aerosols containing a surrogate virus, a bacteriophage with similar properties to SARS-CoV-2.
They detected a virus on the PDMS sampler using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), showing that the device could be used to reliably estimate airborne virus concentrations.
Then, the researchers distributed Fresh Air Clips to 62 volunteers who wore the monitors for five days. PCR analysis of the clips detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in five of the clips: four were worn by restaurant servers and one by homeless shelter staff.
Scientists detected the highest viral loads in two badges from restaurant servers.
Although the Fresh Air Clip has not yet been commercialized, these results indicate that it could serve as a semiquantitative screening tool for assessing personal exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and help identify high-risk areas for indoor exposure the researchers say.