Swab Squad Deployed In Los Alamos And Globally

Los Alamos ‘Swab Squad’ technician Andrew Warson takes a sample of a keypad on a gas pump at the Smith Fuel Center Wednesday morning on Trinity Dr., assisted by technician Amanda MacDonald, left, and Dr. Prisca Tiassé. Smith’s Fuel Center Supervisor Adelia Bowers, center, watches the procedure and explained that she and her crew wipe down the contact areas of the pumps every hour that the Center is open to promote a healthy shopping experience. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos Daily Post

A squad of volunteers was deployed Monday around the community to swab high-touch public areas for traces of COVID-19.

The effort was part of the “global City Sampling Day” (gCSD), a yearly initiative spearheaded by an international and interdisciplinary consortium of public and private institutions and companies, including Cornell University and various Pasteur Institutes.

Los Alamos Makers at 3540 Orange St., organized the local effort as part of its Community Biotech Club. The Community Biotech Club is sponsored by Biodidact and N3B Los Alamos.

“Because of the COVID-19 outbreak underway, the initiative this year garnered more attention and participants,” Los Alamos Makers Founder Dr. Prisca Tiassé said. “We had a dozen volunteers who swabbed 150 high traffic areas around the community including the pumps at gas stations, playgrounds, areas of Ashley Pond Park, buses, bus stops and more. The samples from Los Alamos and around the world are all heading to the Mason Lab in New York where they will be complied.”

Associate Professor Christopher E. Mason, Ph.D. of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, spoke about gCSD in a letter Tiassé shared with Los Alamos County officials.

“We are writing to request your cooperation and collaboration on scientific research in your city,” he said. “The goal of this academic research is to better understand bacterial and viral microbe communities so we can make public health recommendations. Specifically, we will be analyzing environmental samples collected in public spaces looking for evidence of coronavirus and other RNA viruses.”

Mason explained that the samples will be compared against other samples collected all over the world to map the emergence and movement of CoViD19.

“This project is part of a larger effort called the MetaSUB (Metagenomics and Metadesign of Subways and Urban Biomes) International Consortium,” he said in the letter. “We aim to create higher-resolution maps of the genetic dynamics of the world’s subway systems, and this work will be carried out by medical

This research has been recognized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Vallee Foundation, the WorldQuant Foundation, Promega, Qiagen, Illumina, One Codex, Cosmos ID, and Zymo.

“Our efforts represent a globalized initiative to collect longitudinal data across the world’s subway systems and cities, which will reveal important information about antimicrobial resistance markers (AMRs), biosynthetic gene clusters (BCGs), and ancestry-informative markers,” Mason said. “This work also can aid discussions and context for urban health, public health, and city planning. We are working with over 100 academic institutions, several companies, and multiple government authorities around the world to aid in this work.”

Tiassé said it is to be noted that such work is of importance beyond COVID-19, especially in New Mexico, where Yersinia Pestis, the bacterial agent responsible for the bubonic plague, is rare but still active.

Learn more about Los Alamos Makers at www.losalamosmakers.org.

Technician Amanda MacDonald, left, holds the collection tube block as technician Andrew Warson places the sample into the vile. Dr. Prisca Tiassé will place the lid on the vile, which will be sent for evaluation to Mason Lab in New York. Smith’s Fuel Center Supervisor Adelia Bowers, center, watched the process. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

A swabber in Berlin. Courtesy/MetaSUB

Swabbers in Krakow. Courtesy/MetaSUB

A swabber in India. Courtesy/MetaSUB


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