covid air sampler - woman in lab

Yale researchers develop a wearable air sampler to monitor your personal exposure to Covid-19

The Fresh Air Clip is a wearable device that monitors an individual's personal exposure to the Covid-19 virus.

A new wearable air sampler that you clip onto your clothing can monitor your personal exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

Of course, masks, social distancing, and ventilation all help reduce your risk of getting infected with COVID-19.

But even with these measures, airborne SARS-CoV-2 is still present in many indoor settings.

That’s why researchers at Yale have developed a passive air sampler clip that can help assess your personal exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

They published their findings on January 11 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

This new clip could be especially helpful for workers in high-risk settings, such as restaurants or healthcare facilities.

covid air monitor

The Fresh Air Clip: a cheap and portable Covid monitor for individuals

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through the inhalation of virus-laden aerosols and respiratory droplets that infected individuals expel by coughing, sneezing, speaking, or breathing.

Researchers have used active air sampling devices to detect airborne SARS-CoV-2 in indoor settings.

But these monitors are typically large, expensive, non-portable, and require electricity.

To better understand personal exposures to the virus, Krystal Pollitt and colleagues wanted to develop a small, lightweight, inexpensive, and wearable device that doesn’t require a power source.

The researchers developed a wearable passive air sampler, known as 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 the 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.

Restaurant workers at the highest risk

PCR analysis of the clips detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in five of the clips: four were worn by restaurant servers and one by a homeless shelter staff person.

The highest viral loads (more than 100 RNA copies per clip) were detected 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, as well as help identify high-risk areas for indoor exposure, the researchers say.

“Our findings,” they write, “demonstrate that PDMS-based passive samplers may serve as a useful exposure assessment tool for airborne viral exposure in real-world high-risk settings and provide avenues for early detection of potential cases and guidance on site-specific infection control protocols that preempt community transmission.”

Study: “Development and Application of a Polydimethylsiloxane-Based Passive Air Sampler to Assess Personal Exposure to SARS-CoV-2”
Authors: Darryl M. Angel, Dong Gao, Kayley DeLay, Elizabeth Z. Lin, Jacob Eldred, Wyatt Arnold, Romero Santiago, Carrie Redlich, Richard A. Martinello, Jodi D. Sherman, Jordan Peccia, and Krystal J. Godri Pollitt
Published in: Environmental Science & Technology Letters
Publication date: January 11, 2022
DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.1c00877

Photo: by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash

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Douglas Heingartner

Douglas Heingartner, the editor of PsychNewsDaily, is a journalist based in Amsterdam. He has written about science, technology, and more for publications including The New York Times, The Economist, Wired, the BBC, The Washington Post, New Scientist, The Associated Press, IEEE Spectrum, Quartz, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, and others. His LinkedIn profile is here, and his Muck Rack profile is here.