Research roundup: What approach works best for measuring airborne viruses in animal agricultural contexts?

February 12, 2021

Scientists at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and School of Public Health recently found that high flow rate samplers — which assess a greater quantity of air at one time than low flow rate samplers — may be better for detecting infectious virus and viral RNA in the air in animal agricultural settings. Meanwhile, they saw that low flow rate samplers more accurately measured airborne virus concentrations. In order to know how far infectious airborne virus-containing particles may travel, whether they may enter human or animal respiratory tracts, and the most effective ways to limit exposures to them, researchers must be able to measure concentrations, sizes, and infectivity of virus-containing particles in animal agriculture facilities. So, the researchers set out to determine which samplers are best for detecting and measuring concentrations of virus-containing particles in the air. The team used a range of different air samplers in separate tests to collect artificially generated aerosols of three viruses that greatly impact the animal production industry: MS2 bacteriophage, swine influenza, and avian influenza. To assess airborne viruses in the field, the team suggests that producers rely on a two-sampler approach. A suitable high flow sampler may provide low limits of detection to determine if any virus is in the air. If detected, a suitable lower flow sampler may measure airborne virus concentrations. This research was conducted through the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, which is funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Read more in the paper, published January 28, 2021, in PLOS ONE.

Photo of the swine flu virus by CDC on Unsplash