Air sampling as an aid to infection control is still in an experimental stage, as there is no consensus about which air samplers and pathogen detection methods should be used, and what thresholds of specific pathogens in specific exposed populations (staff, patients, or visitors) constitutes a true clinical risk. This case report used a button sampler, worn or held by staff or left free-standing in a fixed location, for environmental sampling around a child who was chronically infected by a respiratory adenovirus, to determine whether there was any risk of secondary adenovirus infection to the staff managing the patient. Despite multiple air samples taken on difference days, coinciding with high levels of adenovirus detectable in the child’s nasopharyngeal aspirates (NPAs), none of the air samples contained any detectable adenovirus DNA using a clinically validated diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. Although highly sensitive, in-house PCR assays have been developed to detect airborne pathogen RNA/DNA, it is still unclear what level of specific pathogen RNA/DNA constitutes a true clinical risk. In this case, the absence of detectable airborne adenovirus DNA using a conventional diagnostic assay removed the requirement for staff to wear surgical masks and face visors when they entered the child’s room. No subsequent staff infections or outbreaks of adenovirus have so far been identified.
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