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Apparatus and method for sampling and detecting airborne pathogens

Air quality controlcovid-19covid-19Lab-on-chipLab-on-chipPCRSafety at worksicurezza sul lavoro


The proposed system aims to sample the air present in closed spaces (hospital rooms, supermarkets, offices, elevators, subways, etc.) and to verify the possible presence of pathogens, and in particular of SARS-CoV -2 virus. The system is based on a chain of three modules, to be interfaced and integrated into a compact system. The system draws in the air and the solid or liquid material present therein (module 1: aspiration and sampling of the air), prepares it for analysis (module 2: extraction of nucleic acids from the sample collected by module 1) and transfers the ” extracted to the lab-on-chip device (module 3: lab-on-chip device for virus detection and quantification) which reveals the presence of the virus in real time through the Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction molecular amplification technique (RT-PCR) in real time.

Technical features

The system can detect multiple pathogens at the same time, their number depends on the minimum amount of sample needed to identify them and the aspiration time allowed for the analysis. Assuming a maximum aspiration time of about three hours, from a first estimate, a plausible number is 5 pathogens at the same time. This method is “customizable” by changing the PCR primers and the chemistry of the extraction module. RT-PCR is the technique of choice for the detection of pathogens, but currently requires that the collected sample be transported to an equipped laboratory. Consequently, the analysis of the sampled air cannot take place on-site and the sampling and detection of pathogens are carried out in distinct phases, with independent devices that require the intervention of an operator and / or sophisticated instrumental equipment. In the known art, there are no known devices that separately perform both air sampling and the detection of pathogens contained therein, as in the present invention.

Possible Applications

  • Air quality control in emergency rooms, supermarkets, etc.;
  • Air quality control in aerosol emissions produced directly from a patient’s airways and in the breathing and aeration systems;
  • Search for any type of virus or bacterium with appropriate reagents within the lab-on-chip.


  • Compact device;
  • Easily transportable device;
  • Reduced analysis execution times;
  • Reduction in costs.