Greenville, North Carolina – Researchers at East Carolina University may have found a breakthrough in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus in closed indoor environments.
A project lasting several months led them to detect viruses in the ventilation systems on the university campus.
The researchers said HVAC air sampling can be an important COVID-19 surveillance technique, especially for new facilities and for buildings considered collective living spaces.
âIt was an extremely difficult project,â said Sinan Sousan, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health.
The researchers said detecting the virus in the air inside buildings can be a challenge.
The team carried out CVC air sampling in two five-story dormitories for more than three months during the spring semester of 2021. Their goal was to find out if they could identify the virus from just one. place for the whole building.
“We have had a number of cases where we have detected it in the air, and it has also been detected in students by the random weekly tests that the ECU performed on the students,” said Rachel Roper, immunologist. at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. “Of course, we couldn’t test every student against our aerial tests, but we had a pretty good correlation between the two.”
âWe sampled the air and wanted to know if we could identify the virus from one location for the whole building,â Sousan said.
Researchers said they had a 100% detection rate of coronavirus in the isolation dormitory CVC system, where there was a known positive case.
âWe were able to detect the virus while the patient was on the same floor as the measurement,â Sousan said.
Roper said the project emphasizes the need for better air circulation and filtration in similar environments like cruise ships and hotels.
âWe realized how important it is to bring in outside air because if a lot of people are sick in the building, the virus can build up in the air,â she said.
“Any large building would be fine, especially prisons, dormitories, military barracks – something like that – maybe daycares. [or] any place where you are concerned about the spread of a pathogen, âRoper added.
None of the students working on the project fell ill, the researchers said, but they found that one person had tested positive for the coronavirus a day or two later.
The researchers noted that air testing and human testing did not take place every day.