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Brazil-designed device detects coronavirus samples in air


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Researchers from Hospital das Clínicas, at the University of São Paulo Medical School (FM-USP), and from start-up Omni-electronica have developed technology capable of capturing samples of the novel coronavirus in the air in order to monitor the security of areas with high concentration of people.

Dubbed Spiri, the system existed before and was created by former students from USP Polytechnical School, who founded the start-up. Originally, the goal was to assess air quality indoors. For two months, researchers conducted tests with air samples at the hospital.


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“We have a rather robust database on air quality indoors; we know how respiratory viruses are transmitted and how infections can intensify in winter months. When the pandemic of the novel coronavirus started, it became clear to us that dissemination indoors was the most likely, even though this hadn’t been really spoken of, not even by the World Health Organization,” said Omni-electronica head and study coordinator Arthur Aikawa.


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Spiri is described as having integrated sensors which capture the air and send data to a central that generates real-time reports online, helping technicians advise customers on how to improve air circulation through customer subscription. Study results are being prepared for publication in a scientific journal.

The protocol employed by Spiri, Aikawa said, can guarantee appropriate air circulation, prevent the concentration of respiratory viruses in a given environment, and run periodic tests on whether the virus has circulated in the area. Having the device installed at strategic places, he went on to argue, like train and subway stations, may help decision makers plan out a safer return to economic activities.

“The tests on the new coronavirus under this protocol are possible but difficult to do on large scale because of time and cost issues. Lab results take at least five days. Spiri, on the other hand, is a real-time indicator on whether the necessary precautions are being taken so that the environment is less prone to having the virus spread,” Aikawa stressed.

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