DOI: 10.3390/microbiolres15010008 ISSN: 2036-7481

Automated Protocol for Monitoring Droplets and Fomites on Surfaces

Federica Valeriani, Lory Marika Margarucci, Francesca Ubaldi, Gianluca Gianfranceschi, Vincenzo Romano Spica
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology

During the COVID-19 pandemic, extensive efforts focused on developing a better understanding of indirect transmission routes, environmental monitoring of fomites, and suitable surveillance strategies, providing new perspectives to also face other communicable diseases. Rapid methods for monitoring environmental contamination are strongly needed to support risk assessment, epidemiological surveillance and prevent infections from spreading. We optimized and automatized a protocol based on fomite detection by qPCR, using a microbial-signature approach based on marker genes belonging to the microbiota of droplets or different biological fluids. The procedure was implemented by exploiting the available tools developed for SARS-CoV-2 tracing, such as flocked swab sampling, real-time PCR equipment and automatic extraction of nucleic acids. This approach allowed scaling up, simplifying, and speeding up the extraction step of environmental swabs, processing at least 48 samples within 45 min vs. 90 min for about 24 samples by manual protocols. A comparison of microflora data by Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) strongly supports the effectiveness of this semiautomated extraction procedure, providing good quality DNA with comparable representation of species as shown by biodiversity indexes. Today, equipment for qPCR is widely available and relatively inexpensive; therefore this approach may represent a promising tool for hospital hygiene in surveilling fomites associated with SARS-CoV-2 or other pathogen’s transmission.

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