Front Med (Lausanne). 2021 Mar 17;8:604392. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2021.604392. eCollection 2021.
In the COVID-19 outbreak year 2020, a consensus was reached on the fact that SARS-CoV-2 spreads through aerosols. However, finding an efficient method to detect viruses in aerosols to monitor the risk of similar infections and enact effective control remains a great challenge. Our study aimed to build a swirling aerosol collection (SAC) device to collect viral particles in exhaled breath and subsequently detect SARS-CoV-2 using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Laboratory tests of the SAC device using aerosolized SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus indicated that the SAC device can produce a positive result in only 10 s, with a collection distance to the source of 10 cm in a biosafety chamber, when the release rate of the pseudovirus source was 1,000,000 copies/h. Subsequent clinical trials of the device showed three positives and 14 negatives out of 27 patients in agreement with pharyngeal swabs, and 10 patients obtained opposite results, while no positive results were found in a healthy control group (n = 12). Based on standard curve calibration, several thousand viruses per minute were observed in the tested exhalations. Furthermore, referring to the average tidal volume data of adults, it was estimated that an exhaled SARS-CoV-2 concentration of approximately one copy/mL is detectable for COVID-19 patients. This study validates the original concept of breath detection of SARS-CoV-2 using SAC combined with RT-PCR.