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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Airborne rhinovirus detection and effect of ultraviolet irradiation on detection by a semi-nested RT-PCR assay

Theodore A Myatt1, Sebastian L Johnston2, Stephen Rudnick1 and Donald K Milton1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave, Boston MA USA 02115

2 Department of Respiratory Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK

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BMC Public Health 2003, 3:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-3-5

Published: 13 January 2003

Abstract

Background

Rhinovirus, the most common cause of upper respiratory tract infections, has been implicated in asthma exacerbations and possibly asthma deaths. Although the method of transmission of rhinoviruses is disputed, several studies have demonstrated that aerosol transmission is a likely method of transmission among adults. As a first step in studies of possible airborne rhinovirus transmission, we developed methods to detect aerosolized rhinovirus by extending existing technology for detecting infectious agents in nasal specimens.

Methods

We aerosolized rhinovirus in a small aerosol chamber. Experiments were conducted with decreasing concentrations of rhinovirus. To determine the effect of UV irradiation on detection of rhinoviral aerosols, we also conducted experiments in which we exposed aerosols to a UV dose of 684 mJ/m2. Aerosols were collected on Teflon filters and rhinovirus recovered in Qiagen AVL buffer using the Qiagen QIAamp Viral RNA Kit (Qiagen Corp., Valencia, California) followed by semi-nested RT-PCR and detection by gel electrophoresis.

Results

We obtained positive results from filter samples that had collected at least 1.3 TCID50 of aerosolized rhinovirus. Ultraviolet irradiation of airborne virus at doses much greater than those used in upper-room UV germicidal irradiation applications did not inhibit subsequent detection with the RT-PCR assay.

Conclusion

The air sampling and extraction methodology developed in this study should be applicable to the detection of rhinovirus and other airborne viruses in the indoor air of offices and schools. This method, however, cannot distinguish UV inactivated virus from infectious viral particles.