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Detecting SARS-CoV-2 in the Environment

Researchers collaborating from 7 institutions have outlined an approach to characterize and develop an effective environmental monitoring methodology for SARS CoV-2 virus, that can be used to better understand viral persistence in built environments.

For the studies, the researchers used inactivated noninfectious virus that is viable and can be used as a surrogate. “Our group adapted the CDC-approved reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) methodology and then tested the efficacy of RT-qPCR in detecting SARS CoV-2 from various environmental surface samples,” said Dr. Ceth W. Parker, one of the 3 lead study authors, a post-doctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The researchers tested a variety of surface materials common in built environments, including bare stainless steal, painted stainless steel, plastics and reinforced fiberglass.

“We tested these surfaces by seeding inactivated noninfectious SARS CoV-2 particles and then determining how well we could actually recover them from the surfaces,” said Dr. Parker. “It takes a minimum of 1,000 viral particles per 25 cm2 to effectively and reproducibly detect SARS-CoV-2 virus on the surface. We found that viral RNA can persist on surfaces for at least 8 days. We also found that inhibitory substances and debris have to be taken into account on the surfaces they are being tested on.”

End-to-End Protocol for the Detection of SARS-CoV-2 from Built Environments. mSystems, October 6, 2020.

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