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One of the major challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is its detection indoors. The US defense establishment is working on a solution applicable in military and civilian installations. A monitor that would detect COVID-19 proteins in the air will be developed by US Army scientists and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The prototype sensor would help detect the virus with enough speed and accuracy that users could prevent infection from spreading.
“Monitoring pathogens in the environment remains a challenging area of study,” said Dr. Matthew Coppock, Army chemist and team leader. “(Army Research Laboratory) has a unique capability to design and synthesize selective biosensor recognition elements using short synthetic peptides. …”
Those peptides, short chains of amino acids linked by peptide bonds, mimic the way antibodies attach to the COVID-19 virus.
If successful the sensor could allow for a new way to monitor public health beyond the Department of Defense, such as monitoring for COVID at work sites, travel points and schools, according to armytimes.com.
The foundational work of what’s come together so far should also have applications far beyond the COVID-19 virus. That’s because, with minimal variations, scientists anticipate they will be able to use the peptides for other diseases.
Military Times reported in July that DARPA studies also monitored the airflow in various types of military aircraft to determine which posed the lowest threat of infection from coronavirus patients. The work measured the flow of coronavirus-sized particles to determine risk factors for those platforms and which aircraft would be preferable if needed for virus-laden transport.
DARPA spokesman told Military Times that the testing looked at six aircraft: C-17, KC-135, C-130J, C-5, KC-46 and KC-10. “DARPA concluded that the aircraft with the most favorable airflow circulation was the KC-10, which provided complete protection to the front compartments through the use of directed airflow and smoke barriers.”