Yale researchers develop clip-on COVID-19 tracker that can detect airborne virus

Scientists from Yale University have developed a wearable device that can detect airborne SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, according to a study published this week.

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The study, published in the peer-reviewed online journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, looks at the device that can be clipped onto your clothes and can detect low levels of airborne SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The device was designed by Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Public Health. It is about 1 inch in diameter and is placed in a device that can be clipped to a person’s clothing.

“The Fresh Air Clip is a wearable device that can be used to assess exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the air,” said the clip’s creator Krystal Godri Pollitt, an assistant professor of epidemiology (environmental health sciences) at YSPH and an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale.

“With this clip we can detect low levels of virus that are well below the estimated SARS-CoV-2 infectious dose,” Godri Pollitt said. “The Fresh Air clip serves to identify exposure events early, alerting people to get tested or quarantine. The clip is intended to help prevent viral spread, which can occur when people do not have this kind of early detection of exposure.”

According to those conducting the study, the wearable device could take the place of large machines used to study the air in a room for any trace of COVID-19.

For the study, the device was distributed to community members across Connecticut to surveil personal SARS-CoV-2 exposure. The virus was detected on clips worn by five of the 62 participants.

“Our findings demonstrate that … passive samplers may serve as a useful exposure assessment tool for airborne viral exposure in real-world high-risk settings and provide avenues for early detection of potential cases and guidance on site-specific infection control protocols that preempt community transmission,” according to the study.

The Fresh Air Clip is currently being used in other research projects. Godri Pollitt said she hopes to make the clips available to the public in the future.