New way to prevent COVID-19 spread? Scientists propose using mass spectrometers to monitor public places for pathogens

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July 14, 2021 4:04 PM

Using mass spectrometry, the mass to charge ratio of molecule(s) in a sample can be measured, and with its help, airborne pathogens can be monitored and detected.

The team added that as things and places are starting to open up, such kind of monitoring for contagions, especially in places of high physical contact, is required.

Mass spectrometers: While the entire world is struggling to look for alternatives to lockdowns in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic, a team of scientists has come up with a possibly viable solution – mass spectrometers that can conduct airborne screening of pathogens. According to a report in IE, scientists have suggested using mass spectrometers to monitor the contagion of the virus in public places. The team consists of scientists from India, Germany, Japan, the US, and Malaysia, and in Sustainability journal, the researchers have proposed using an interdisciplinary approach for the development of a contagion surveillance strategy.

Using mass spectrometry, the mass to charge ratio of molecule(s) in a sample can be measured, and with its help, airborne pathogens can be monitored and detected, especially in public places with large footfall, the report cited the paper’s lead author Dr Chaitanya Giri as saying.

While the mass spectrometer is a table-top instrument used in laboratories, the team has proposed making adjustments to it so that it can be operated directly as well as portably on site. Scientists have also said that extensive data analysis is needed along with its treatment with machine learning based on mass spectrometry so that viral biochemical markers can be identified in samples taken from contagions in the air.

The team added that as things and places are starting to open up, such kind of monitoring for contagions, especially in places of high physical contact, is required. And for this, Dr Giri said, the team has proposed that the team that takes up the development of such portable mass spectrometers must collaborate with other scientists who are working with similar remotely operable mass spectrometers in other areas like space missions, for a better and deeper understanding.

However, before this tool can be used as a foolproof method, it is still at the stage where research and funding is needed, and taking to an interdisciplinary approach might help in devising innovative solutions, the report added.

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