Indoor Air Sampling for Detection of Viral Nucleic Acids

43 Pages Posted: 13 May 2024 Last revised: 28 May 2024

See all articles by Lennart Justen

Lennart Justen

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Charles Stark Draper Laboratory; SecureBio

Simon Grimm

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); SecureBio

Kevin Esvelt

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

William Bradshaw

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); SecureBio

Date Written: May 10, 2024

Abstract

Detecting and monitoring airborne viruses is critical for mitigating the spread of infectious diseases and safeguarding public health. Indoor air sampling has emerged as a promising but underexplored approach to the surveillance of viral pathogens, complementing more established methods such as clinical diagnostics and wastewater-based epidemiology. This review examines the current state of knowledge on indoor air sampling for viral nucleic acid detection, focusing on the sources and composition of viral bioaerosols, sampling technologies, and strategies for effective implementation. Indoor air contains viral particles originating from human occupants through exhaled respiratory droplets, skin shedding, and resuspension of contaminated dust, making it a valuable target for viral biosurveillance. Although viruses typically account for less than 1% of total sequences in metagenomic studies of air, a wide range of human-infecting viruses, including respiratory and skin-associated pathogens, have been successfully detected in air samples using various capture mechanisms, such as filtration, impaction, impingement, cyclonic separation, electrostatic precipitation, and condensation. However, challenges remain in optimizing sampling efficiency, particularly for submicrometer particles, and in recovering sufficient viral nucleic acids for analysis. Potential strategies for pathogen biosurveillance include active air sampling in high-traffic settings such as airports, public transit systems, and healthcare facilities, as well as passive collection of settled dust from surfaces. The use of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems for viral bioaerosol monitoring is also promising, but further research is needed to establish its effectiveness. Future studies should focus on addressing knowledge gaps, optimizing sampling methodologies, and developing best practices for integrating air sampling into public health surveillance systems while considering privacy implications.

Keywords: Indoor air quality, Infectious disease monitoring, Environmental monitoring, Air sampling, Metagenomic sequencing

Suggested Citation

Justen, Lennart and Grimm, Simon and Esvelt, Kevin and Bradshaw, William, Indoor Air Sampling for Detection of Viral Nucleic Acids (May 10, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4823882 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4823882

Lennart Justen

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Charles Stark Draper Laboratory ( email )

Cambridge
United States of America

SecureBio ( email )

1 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Simon Grimm

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

SecureBio ( email )

1 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Kevin Esvelt

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

William Bradshaw (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

SecureBio ( email )

1 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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