Sampling surfaces for the COVID-19 virus in public health laboratories

Surface sampling for SARS-CoV-2 RNA has shown promise in detecting exposure of environments to infected individuals shedding the virus that would otherwise go undetected. Now a new study, published in mSystemsan open access journal from the American Society for Microbiology, shows that the methodology used to detect the COVID-19 virus in nasal swabs in public health clinics, the Viral Transport Medium (VTM)/PerkinElmer Pipeline, can be used to detect the virus on surfaces in indoor environments such as schools.

“Public health labs can now test for the virus that causes COVID-19 not only in people, but also for traces left in the environment with equipment they already have,” said the lead author. of the study, Rob Knight, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, computer science and engineering, and bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego.

In the study, the researchers compared sampling and testing methods they developed at the university (the sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)/Thermo pipeline) to methods used in public health facilities (the VTM/Perkin Elmer pipeline). The SDS/Thermo methodology uses robotic automation and specific reagents that are often not available in public health laboratories. The researchers placed SARS-CoV-2 on laminated cards in the labs and then tested the two methods of detecting the virus.

The researchers found that the method developed by the university, the SDS/Thermo pipeline, has superior sensitivity and specificity, but the VTM/PerkinElmer pipeline is still sufficient to support surface monitoring in indoor environments such as as schools, prisons and group homes. The SDS/Thermo pipeline showed higher sensitivity with a false negative rate of 9% versus 27% for the VTM/PerkinElmer pipeline.

“This study is a comparison between a research laboratory and a public health technique for measuring SARS-CoV-2 in the environment,” Dr Knight said. “Although the VTM/Perkin Elmer pipeline is less sensitive, it was still useful to use in surface sampling programs such as the Safer at School Early Alert (SASEA) program. public health already have for clinical testing can be used to test environmental surfaces as well This is going to be very useful and applicable in public health labs as a surveillance method for schools and other settings where you need to detect the virus that causes COVID without having to administer a clinical test.

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Material provided by American Society for Microbiology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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