To re-use or not to re-use? That is the question for COVID-19 research
Study shows Jumbosep ultrafiltration devices can be sanitized and reused: an economic and environmental advantage
June 3, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it the need for intense medical research. Across the globe, scientists are racing to advance vaccines and develop the technologies needed to track and eradicate the disease. Intensive research is expensive however, and some of the costs may not immediately be realized. Environmental impacts are something none of us can ignore, but the need to curtail the medical waste stream often conflicts with the need to use single-use technologies to maintain a sterile workspace. This brings up a question increasingly pondered in biomedical research—to use or not to re-use?
This question is particularly pertinent where COVID is involved [1,2]. Single-use products are designed to guarantee a sterile environment. However, single use plastics, whether personal protective equipment (PPE) or other medical devices, are already creating a health hazard and threatening to overwhelm our environment. Reusable products can lower economic cost and environmental impact, but researchers are understandably wary of carryover contamination from a highly contagious virus. COVID-19 tracking and detection technologies are a perfect example of the current debate over single-use versus reusable approaches.
The surveillance of human wastewater systems to test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus is gaining ground as a potential early detection method for the presence of community COVID outbreaks3. The benefit of this method is that viral shedding occurs whether a COVID patient is symptomatic or not. This means that COVID outbreaks in the community can potentially be identified even in the absence of widespread testing and case reporting by hospitals. Wastewater surveillance technology relies on the use of viral concentration, often via ultrafiltration devices such as the Pall JumbosepTM centrifugal device, to validate the presence of viral shedding into community sewage systems. While similar concentration devices are single-use, the Jumbosep is re-usable (Fig.1).
Research shows that re-usable technology of this type is well-accepted in the protein concentration space, but since the field of SARS-CoV-2 viral concentration is quite new, there is as yet little research on the practicality and safety of reusing products that have come into contact with the COVID virus. To answer this question, we carried out an in-house investigation on viral carryover from one use of the Jumbosep device to the next. The full scientific data is available in our Technical Bulletin: Decontamination of Jumbosep™ Centrifugal Devices used for Concentrating Viral Particles in Testing of Wastewater Samples .
Briefly, the following protocol was used to ensure the centrifugal device was decontaminated:
- Remove molecular weight cutoff membrane insert
- Immerse sample reservoir and filtrate receiver for 1 hour in a solution of 2 % Extran♦ MA 02 neutral detergent and 0.05 % sodium hypochlorite
- Rinse 3X in molecular biology grade water
Figure 2 shows the results of the experiment, clearly demonstrating that that there was no detectable carryover between product uses, and that the efficacy of downstream detection of viral proteins was not affected by the decontamination process.
Our data clearly demonstrates that Jumbosep ultrafiltration units can be sanitized and reused, which is an economic and environmental advantage. The benefits of more sustainable solutions to the challenge of medical waste are significant, it may be time to re-examine the idea that only single-use products can be trusted. As long as the absence of any sample carryover can be validated, perhaps reusable technology is the way forward for everyone.
Visit our dedicated COVID-19 information to learn more about filtration solutions for COVID-19 detection and research.
- Calma J. The COVID-19 pandemic is generating tons of medical waste. The Verge. Mar 2020.
- Prata J.C. et al. COVID-19 Pandemic Repercussions on the Use and Management of Plastics. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 13, 7760–7765. June 2020.
- Stanford University. A new wastewater testing approach capable of better detecting viral infection patterns in communities could prove a crucial step toward an informed public health response to diseases like COVID-19. Science Daily. Dec 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201207091259.htm Accessed 30 March 2021