Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed an air sampler to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, Thermo's AerosolSense device pulls air in and directs it at a collection cartridge that traps viral particles. That cartridge can then be removed and sent to a lab for PCR analysis, it adds, noting that a rapid PCR test can also be used. The company tells the Times it has tested the device in both the hospital rooms of COVID-19 patients where it, as expected, uncovered the virus and in hospital staff breakrooms where it did not.
The Times notes that results from the samplers need to be treated cautiously, as a negative result only means it did not detect the virus, which can be present at low levels in the air. Additionally, how to manage a positive finding is unclear, but could involve increased ventilation and viral surveillance, it says.
Alex Huffman from University of Denver tells the Times that tools like these could improve decision making in future viral outbreaks, including the flu. "That's not to say it can't help now, but I think its real influence may be even greater as we go further and further into the future," he adds.