A multidisciplinary research team formed by personnel from the universities of Miguel Hernández of Elche (UMH), Jaume I (UJI), and València (UV), led by UJI professor, Juana María Delgado Saborit, has begun installing equipment inside public spaces to measure and evaluate the genetic load of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In Elche, the team of UMH professor, Nuria Galindo, from the Atmospheric Pollution Laboratory research group, has already begun collecting samples from within Classroom 1.6 of the Altabix Building in addition to the Arenals cafeteria on that UMH campus.
This project, ‘Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Indoor Aerosols as a Tool for Evaluating Health Measures to Prevent and Alert about Covid-19 Transmission,’ is receiving almost 200,000 euros from the Generalitat Valenciana as a project of excellence. Its main objective is to determine the genetic load of the virus in aerosol samples taken from indoor settings, as well as evaluate whether such detection can serve as a sentinel to warn about future waves of Covid-19.
The equipment used to collect atmospheric aerosol samples is portable and will remain installed in various locations for one week each. The study is placing this equipment in elementary schools, high schools, hospitals, health centers, and nursing homes for the elderly because, among its objectives, is to evaluate the effectiveness of the preventive health measures that are currently being applied in order to modify them or to propose new ones depending upon the results from the study. In order to draw conclusions that enable determining the efficacy of the adopted measures, the research team plans to collect samples for more than four months, and these samples will serve to carry out biochemical analyses of genetic load relative to SARS-CoV-2 in the atmospheric aerosols.
The research team is comprised of Juana María Delgado, from the Perinatal Epidemiology, Environmental Health and Clinical Research group at the UJI; professor Vicente J. Esteve Cano (UJI) and researchers Nuria Galindo (UMH) and Ana Esplugues (UV), who make up the scientific advisory committee on air quality; UJI researchers, Rosa de Llanos, Manuela Barneo, and Paula Carrasco, as microbiology experts; in addition to researchers, Marisa Reblagliato (UJI), Juan B. Bellido (UJI), María Barberá (UJI), María Luisa Estarlich (UV), Ferran Ballester (UV), and Carmen Iñíguez (UV), who belong to the scientific advisory committee on environmental epidemiology.
The financial support was granted by the Generalitat Valenciana in late 2020 as part of a package of exceptional grants for entities conducting research projects of excellence to anticipate and adapt to situations caused by Covid-19. The purpose of this initiative was to fund strategic R&D projects of excellence that provide governmental agencies with the best tools for combating coronavirus.
Likewise, the UMH Atmospheric Pollution Laboratory research group is participating in another project based on analyzing the presence of genetic remains of Covid-19 in urban areas of Elche. To accomplish this, the UMH researchers have installed an atmospheric measuring station near the kiosk at the Glorieta in Elche.