This is the question that Drs. Carmen Alonso, Sagar Goyal, Peter Davies, and Montse Torremorell from the College of Veterinary Medicine studied in collaboration with Drs. Bernard Olson and Peter Raynor from the College of Science and Engineering and the School of Public Health respectively, in the following paper published in Aerosol Science and Technology this past month.
In this study, the team form the University of Minnesota compared the capacity of two different air samplers to detect PRRSv and SIV in an experimental setting. The challenge to detect viral aerosol is to find a technique capable of capturing small amount of virus in a large amount of air. This experiment found that the particle size, the media used for collection as well as the extraction technique (passive or active) all had a significant effect on the detection of the viruses.
Abstract: Detection and quantification of dilute viral aerosols, as encountered outside animal housing facilities, requires methods that are able to detect small numbers of viruses in large volumes of air. This study compared the performance of two size-differentiating cascade impactors; an Andersen 8-stage (ACI; 28.3 L/min) and a high volume Tisch (TCI; 1,133 L/min) to assess sampling efficiency for detecting porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and influenza A virus (IAV). Samples of particles sorted by aerodynamic diameter were analyzed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and collection efficiency was assessed by particle size. Collection media (minimum essential medium [MEM] and beef extract [BE]), elution technique (active versus passive), and sampling times (10, 20, and 30 min) were variables assessed for the TCI sampler. Extraction efficiency was 35% higher with BE as compared to that of MEM (p = 0.0007); active extraction technique was 19% more efficient than the passive technique (p = 0.03); time of sampling did not significantly affect the amount of virus recovered. The ACI sampler was more efficient in detecting both viruses from small and medium sized airborne particles (≤3 μm) as compared to the TCI sampler (p < 0.001). The latter sampler, however, was more efficient at IAV detection from large airborne particles (>3 μm) (p = 0.0025) indicating the potential of this sampler in detecting the presence of small amounts of viruses in aerosols under field conditions.