Yale researchers develop personal COVID-19 exposure detector

A team of researchers from New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University have developed a wearable air sampler device meant to monitor personal exposure to the coronavirus. 

The team first tested the polydimethylsiloxane-based air sampler in a rotating drum experiment, according to findings published Jan. 11 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Polymerase chain reaction testing detected virus in the sampler after it was in the rotating drum, which contained aerosols laden with a surrogate virus similar to SARS-CoV-2. 

Researchers then embedded the passive sampler in a wearable clip design. Sixty-two participants wore the samplers for five days, after which PCR testing detected the virus on five (8 percent) of them. Of those, four were worn by restaurant servers and one by an employee at a homeless shelter. The highest viral loads were found in two of the clips worn by the restaurant servers. 

"Our findings 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," researchers said. 

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