Collection, particle sizing and detection of airborne viruses

J Appl Microbiol. 2019 Dec;127(6):1596-1611. doi: 10.1111/jam.14278. Epub 2019 Jun 26.


Viruses that affect humans, animals and plants are often dispersed and transmitted through airborne routes of infection. Due to current technological deficiencies, accurate determination of the presence of airborne viruses is challenging. This shortcoming limits our ability to evaluate the actual threat arising from inhalation or other relevant contact with aerosolized viruses. To improve our understanding of the mechanisms of airborne transmission of viruses, air sampling technologies that can detect the presence of aerosolized viruses, effectively collect them and maintain their viability, and determine their distribution in aerosol particles, are needed. The latest developments in sampling and detection methodologies for airborne viruses, their limitations, factors that can affect their performance and current research needs, are discussed in this review. Much more work is needed on the establishment of standard air sampling methods and their performance requirements. Sampling devices that can collect a wide size range of virus-containing aerosols and maintain the viability of the collected viruses are needed. Ideally, the devices would be portable and technology-enabled for on-the-spot detection and rapid identification of the viruses. Broad understanding of the airborne transmission of viruses is of seminal importance for the establishment of better infection control strategies.

Keywords: aerosol; aerovirology; air sampler; airborne transmission; collection efficiency; size distribution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis*
  • Air Microbiology*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Particle Size
  • Specimen Handling*
  • Viruses / isolation & purification*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants