Scientists find a way to filter coronavirus particles out of the air | Science and technology news

A study by researchers suggests that air filters can remove almost all airborne traces of COVID-19.

The results from the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital could not only improve the safety of “surge wards”, but also open up the possibility of setting standards for cleaner air to reduce the risk of indoor transmission.

With a growing fear of yet another potential wave this winter, the discovery could allow hospitals to better manage their recycled “surge departments,” which often lack the ability to change air at a high frequency.

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Portable air filtration and ultraviolet sterilizers are proposed as an effective method to prevent patient-to-healthcare transfer in COVID-19 wards, according to the study published in the journal Clinical Infection Diseases.

Dr. Vilas Navapurlar, a consultant in intensive care medicine who led the study, said: “Reducing airborne transmission of coronavirus is extremely important for the safety of both patients and staff.

“Effective PPE has made a huge difference, but everything we can do to further reduce risk is important,” he added.

“Because of the number of patients admitted with COVID-19, hospitals have had to use wards that are not designed to deal with respiratory infections.

“In an intensely busy time, we were able to assemble a team from across the hospital and university to test whether portable air filtration devices, which are relatively inexpensive, could remove airborne SARS-CoV-2 and make these wards safer.”

The team installed a high-efficiency particle air filter / UV sterilizer – a device consisting of thousands of fibers knitted together to form a material that filters particles from.

These machines were placed in fixed positions in the compartment and ran continuously for seven days, and in total filtered the full amount of air in each room between five and 10 times per hour.

Dr.  Vilas Navapurlar led the study of the use of portable air filters
Picture:
Dr. Vilas Navapurlar led the study of the use of portable air filters

Doctors, scientists and engineers crucially developed a new robust technique for assessing air quality.

They placed air samplers at various points in space and then tested the samples collected using PCR assays similar to those used in the “gold standard” COVID-19 tests.

The team found that the devices not only reduced all traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus while it was running, but also significantly reduced levels of bacterial, fungal and other bioaerosols.

Dr. Andrew Conway Morris, of the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said: “We were really surprised at how effective the air filters were at removing the airborne SARS-CoV-2 on the wards.

“Although only a small study, it highlights their potential to improve the safety of wards, especially in areas not designed to deal with highly contagious diseases such as COVID-19,” added Dr. Morris.

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