Tech UPTechnologyThis device promises to detect Covid-19 in the air

This device promises to detect Covid-19 in the air

The covid-19 pandemic is a moment in history that many want to forget because of the consequences it brought with it. Despite this terrible context, science and technology have driven investment and innovation, even after the most complex moments of the emergency, as these fields continue to advance to detect the disease and reduce the risk of contagion.

The next step in technological development for some scientists is the detection of the virus in the air, as well as the miniaturization of PCR laboratories for the detection of the disease in public spaces.

The North American company Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed a couple of new devices that promise to detect the virus in the air and carry out the tests in a portable way. According to Rafael Rodríguez, the company’s channel manager in Mexico and Central America, these are innovations aimed at a community that shares a space such as a school, an office or a hospital.

One of the objects is the Aerosolsense , which sucks the air and began to be developed even before the pandemic in conjunction with the United States government, which sought to improve the response to infectious diseases, such as Anthrax. The other device is Renvo, a mini laboratory to carry out PCR tests in 30 minutes.

Among the main motivations for this technology, Rodríguez says, is the simplification of detection processes, since not all companies have a laboratory to carry out PCR tests and, if they are carried out, they must have a logistics infrastructure to transport them.

The test is divided into two stages: the first is Aerosolsense, which collects the air sample in a space no greater than 200 meters, the specialist recommends. The second part is where the mini laboratory comes in to do the PCR test.

An analysis of this type differs from rapid antigen tests, because it targets the virus genome, that is, in the laboratory the virus is “broken” to obtain its genetic material and then replicate it to the point of quantifying whether it exists. the virus.

While the collector has the ability to collect any airborne pathogen, the Renvo device is configured to only react to genes that are expressed in SARS-CoV-2, as well as variants that have been discovered so far and future, as the tests are constantly updated.

Rodríguez emphasizes that it is a device for environmental monitoring and not for diagnosis. This means that it will help determine air conditions and does not tell who may be infected.

It is a device “focused on monitoring infectious outbreaks in a community or population. In addition, it helps to have better plantations. In a hospital, for example, if it detects a positive area or with an outbreak, alert to reorganize the areas. It is for the planning, analysis and adoption of protocols that allow reacting to outbreaks”, details the expert.

How does this technology work, step by step?

First, collect the sample in a high-traffic, unobstructed location. For them a single cartridge is used. This sample is in a solid phase and must be converted to a liquid phase through some tools included in each package.

Afterwards, the liquid sample is removed with a transfer pipette to pass it into the chamber and when the layer is closed, the PCR reaction starts automatically. After 30 minutes the test result is obtained and, in this sense, there are three possibilities, positive for covid-19, negative or invalid (here it would be necessary to repeat the process).

To carry out this process, a specialist in molecular biology is not required and, Rodríguez points out, anyone can apply it, but other elements must be taken into account, such as the circulation of air in the space, the number of people who travel and how much time they are there.

What to do after getting the result?

Thermo Fisher invited Expansión to a test at its Customer Experience Center, in which the device collected air for three hours in a 200-square-meter space.

Although the test that was taken was negative, the expert points out that in the event of a positive, one should remain calm and not assume that everyone in the room is sick, because this type of test, even if the viral load is low, detects the virus.

Given this result, it recommends that the people who make up the group take proactive actions, such as isolating themselves and being alert to possible symptoms to avoid outbreaks before the virus can spread.

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