SARS-CoV-2 RNA Recovery from Air Sampled on Quartz Fiber Filters: A Matter of Sample Preservation?

Sabina Licen*, Luisa Zupin, Lorenzo Martello, Valentina Torboli, Sabrina Semeraro, Anna Lilian Gardossi, Enrico Greco, Francesco Fontana, Sergio Crovella, Maurizio Ruscio, Jolanda Palmisani, Alessia Di Gilio, Prisco Piscitelli, Alberto Pallavicini, and Pierluigi Barbieri

Atmosphere 202213(2), 340; February 2022
DOI: 10.3390/atmos13020340

The airborne route of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was confirmed by the World Health Organization in April 2021. There is an urge to establish standardized protocols for assessing the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in air samples to support risk assessment, especially in indoor environments. Debates on the airborne transmission route of SARS-CoV-2 have been complicated because, among the studies testing the presence of the virus in the air, the percentage of positive samples has often been very low. In the present study, we report preliminary results on a study for the evaluation of parameters that can influence SARS-CoV-2 RNA recovery from quartz fiber filters spotted either by standard single-stranded SARS-CoV-2 RNA or by inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virions. The analytes were spiked on filters and underwent an active or passive sampling; then, they were preserved at −80 °C for different numbers of days (0 to 54) before extraction and analysis. We found a mean recovery of 2.43%, except for the sample not preserved (0 days) that showed a recovery of 13.51%. We found a relationship between the number of days and the recovery percentage. The results presented show a possible issue that relates to the quartz matrix and SARS-CoV-2 RNA recovery. The results are in accordance with the already published studies that described similar methods for SARS-CoV-2 RNA field sampling and that reported non-detectable concentrations of RNA. These outcomes could be false negatives due to sample preservation conditions. Thus, until further investigation, we suggest, as possible alternatives, to keep the filters: (i) in a sealed container for preservation at 4 °C; and (ii) in a viral transport medium for preservation at a temperature below 0 °C.

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