Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia develop a system for the direct detection of SARS-CoV-2 in air

Researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) have devised a new system, based on a high sensitivity mass biosensor, which continuously monitors signals for the direct detection of SARS-CoV-2 in atmospheric aerosols. The device, in the prototype phase, makes it possible to assess air quality and the early detection of viruses in indoor spaces such as homes, classrooms, restaurants, cinemas or means of transport.

“This route of spread is gaining weight, so preventive control strategies must take into account the transmission of the virus by aerosol for the effective mitigation of SARS-CoV-2. The system we have developed is a mass biosensor that uses specific antibodies capable of detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus in air “, highlights Ángel Maquieira, professor of the Department of Chemistry and director of the Institute for Molecular Recognition and Technological Development (IDM ) at the UPV.

Preliminary studies have been carried out using non-infective virus-like particles (VLP) developed by Luis Martínez Gil, María Jesús García Murria and Ismael Mingarro, from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of Valencia.

“The biosensor has been evaluated on a laboratory scale; detects VLPs in air in a simulated virus-laden environment, providing a signal that is related to the viral load present in the environment. In this way, when detecting viral load at levels that can be harmful to health, it would emit an alarm signal. It is, therefore, a biosensor capable of detecting SARS-CoV-2 at critical concentration thresholds ”, explains Augusto Juste, pre-doctoral researcher at the IDM Institute at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

For Sergi Morais, also a researcher at the IDM of the UPV, it is a “very promising development since it can serve as an alarm and control system to prevent COVID-19 infection, without the need to carry out PCRs, analyzing air quality in crowded or dangerous spaces. This will allow the taking of health measures to prevent and alert the transmission of COVID-19 ”.

Evaluation at the Hospital General Universitari de Castelló

The methodology and prototype developed by the IDM team is currently in the evaluation phase at the hospital level, in a study that is being carried out in collaboration with the Preventive Medicine and Healthcare Quality service of the Hospital General Universitari de Castelló, directed by Mario Carballido Fernández.

“The results of the study will make it possible to formulate management proposals to reduce the chances of contagion in indoor sanitary spaces. In addition, it should help establish new management elements in the security of secondary care centers that help protect the health of patients and health personnel and thus reduce the risks of transmission in the general population. With the arrival of winter and the closing of terraces, it is necessary to guarantee that closed spaces are safe places ”, says Mario Carballido.

The IDM-UPV biosensor performs direct measurements and also stands out for its ease of use, low cost and versatility. “Currently, there is no commercialized competitive technology like the one we have developed at the prototype level and it could become a virusometer in the near future.” concludes Professor David Giménez-Romero from the University of Valencia.

The development of this prototype has been funded by the Department of Innovation, Universities, Science and Digital Society of the Generalitat Valenciana, within the framework of the call that last March launched to the agents of the Innovation System of the Valencian Community to develop innovative solutions in the fight against coronavirus.


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