An environmental microbiology lab in Oak Ridge is the first U.S. lab to receive accreditation for surface and air analysis of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Assured Bio Labs, LLC, was granted accreditation for testing environmental air and surfaces for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by AIHA’s Laboratory Accreditation Program. AIHA announced the accreditation June 25 in a tweet.
As businesses bring employees back to work, COVID-19 data for touchpoints and air is essential to protect workers and the public. Accreditation ensures the quality of laboratory analysis.
“Since March, we have been running samples for local municipalities and for New York City essential businesses in the financial district,” explained Dr. Edward A. Sobek, president of Assured Bio Labs, LLC. In April , the lab began providing COVID-19 surface and air testing for healthcare facilities in the northeast as they convert COVID-19 patient rooms into standard rooms.
“We were detecting COVID in the air and surfaces both inside and outside patient rooms,” Sobek said.
“We also recently started testing long-term care facilities to provide management with data needed to protect our most vulnerable group of Americans.”
When asked his thoughts on controlling the spread of COVID-19 in buildings, Sobek said, “Engineering solutions focused on air circulation, coupled with knowledge of viral loads in the air and on surfaces, are required to confront that problem.
“Stagnant air plus COVID is a significant risk to occupants.”
Assured Bio’s website recently added COVID counts from its positive air and surface samples.
“I am extremely proud of the quantification technique Assured Bio developed for COVID. Our technology counts the virus concentration in a sample,” Sobek said. “Other labs only report positive or negative results. Our professional clients require viral counts to implement the proper control measures. Quantification also reduces false negative and false positive reporting.”
Assured Bio Labs’ technology includes WhisperCare, a continuous air monitoring system the size of a Rubik’s cube that tests indoor air for viruses, mold and bacteria using DNA and RNA analysis.
The M-TRAP, a patented air sampling cassette developed for rapid capture and analysis of airborne microbes including viruses, is used with WhisperCare for air sampling for COVID-19.
“We are currently using WhisperCare® in firehouses to quickly identify the presence of COVID-19 and prevent widespread infection of crucial first responders,” Sobek said.
Sobek, a microbiologist with more than 20 years of laboratory and field experience, invented the microbial detection technology that he branded as M-TRAP.
The scientist and inventor opened the lab in Oak Ridge in 2005. In 2016, he earned an MBA from the University of Tennessee Haslam College of Business, where he developed and tested WhisperCare® because of hospital requests for a quiet air monitoring system for patient rooms. His pilot study put WhisperCare® in 26 pediatric oncology rooms, monitoring air for molds, viruses, and bacteria that could impact patient health.
When he started the lab, Sobek said he had a choice of whether to innovate in microscopic and culture techniques or in the new DNA techniques for microbiology identification purposes. He chose the DNA route, which positioned the lab for its analysis of COVID-19 in air and surface samples. The lab’s experience includes analyzing for mold, influenza, and Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease, among other microorganisms.
The lab provides collection kits for COVID-19 analysis that includes swabs for touch points such as light switches, handrails, doorknobs, and elevator buttons. The swabs, as well as M-TRAP® cassettes with air samples, must be placed in sealed bags in specialized coolers for overnight shipping to protect the virus’s fragile RNA. Besides its COVID-19 Environmental Testing Program, Assured Bio Labs developed a Pre-Post Cleaning Efficacy Test to verify that cleaning surfaces has removed the virus.
For more information, contact Assured Bio Labs toll-free at 866-546-1727 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The lab’s web site is https://www.assuredbio.com.