Development of a Sampler for the Rapid and Convenient Detection of Airborne Pathogens

Research Trainee: Li Liao, PhD Student, Purdue University

Principal Investigator: Jae Hong Park, MS, PhD, Assistant Professor, Purdue University

Li Liao, PhD Student

Jae Hong Park, PhD, Assistant Professor

The overall goal of this research project is to develop a rapid and convenient method to detect airborne pathogens in the workplace. Currently, many workers are at risk of exposure to airborne biological dust (bioaerosols) including pathogens. Legionellosis, influenza, measles, and tuberculosis are often caused by pathogenic bioaerosols. For preventing workers’ exposure to pathogenic bioaerosols, a rapid detection method is required since it is essential for assessing the exposure, identifying emission sources, controlling air quality, and estimating the performance of ventilation systems. Currently, there are no standard methods to assess the level of airborne pathogens. Conventional procedures include incubation of bioaerosols after passive or active air sampling. A biomolecular analysis device based on the amplification of a particular region of DNA (real-time polymerase chain reaction [PCR]) can be more accurate and adequate for analyzing pathogens. Nevertheless, these methods are less than optimal due to the time required for transporting samples to a lab for 24-hour incubation or subsequent analysis. Thus this proposal seeks to develop a novel method to detect and identify airborne pathogens more efficiently and rapidly in the field. In preliminary work, the team designed and built a sampler to collect bioaerosols directly onto a swab head used in the immunochromatographic assay as an alternative approach to detect pathogens. The central hypothesis is that the combination of our novel bioaerosol sampler with the immunochromatographic assay will yield a rapid and convenient method to collect and detect pathogenic bioaerosols in the field. To test this hypothesis we will determine the limit of detection of test kits used in the immunochromatographic assay and evaluate the performance of the proposed method using pathogenic bioaerosols. We will aerosolize the Legionella pneumophila as a test pathogenic bioaerosol and then measure their concentration using the proposed and conventional methods for the comparison. Upon project completion, we will have a better method to rapidly detect airborne pathogens which will benefit occupational and public health by providing a method for assessing the exposure to pathogenic bioaerosols in various workplaces. The developed method and data will be used to apply for a larger grant application, e.g. to a NIOSH R21. The proposed research will address the NORA sector programs of “Healthcare and Social Assistance” and “Public Safety”, and the cross-sector program of “Immune, Infectious, and Dermal Disease Prevention” (3.3 Infectious disease transmission, 3.6 Infectious disease transmission). The proposed study will contribute to the occupational health and safety of HHS region V. Using the developed method, workers in HHS region V can be protected from the infectious diseases caused by airborne pathogens.