Airport Screening Identifies 30 Known Pathogens

360,000 air travelers participate in genomic surveillance program in the U.S.
Airport screening 2023
US CDC Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program
Travel (Precision Vaccinations News)

A new air passenger screening program announced today will provide early detection of influenza, RSV, and about thirty respiratory viruses.

Confirmed on November 6, 2023, the U.S. CDC's Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance (TGS) program has tested about 360,000 air travelers from more than 135 countries.

Individual samples collected from air travelers provide the most granular and reliable data for detecting pathogens. All samples are voluntary and de-identified.

Participants answer a short survey, providing rich meta-data to accompany these samples and inform public health decision-making.

"The expansion of the Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program .... is essential as we head into fall (2023) respiratory season. The TGS program, which began during the pandemic, acted as an early warning system to detect new and rare variants .... and will do the same for other respiratory viruses in the future," said Dr. Cindy Friedman, chief of CDC's Travelers' Health Branch, in a press release.

The TGS program has proven to be an agile and beneficial asset to public health officials, quickly adapting to an evolving pandemic in real time since it launched in 2021.

Since its inception, the program has sequenced more than 14,000 samples and made the genomic data available on several public health platforms for further analysis. 

Launched in August 2022, the CDC has also conducted airplane wastewater sampling. This airplane wastewater program is expanding from a pilot phase to broader implementation.

Since April 2023, wastewater samples have been collected at San Francisco (SFO) using an automated sampler device at the airport triturator. The triturator is a consolidation point that captures wastewater samples from multiple flights and does not include airport terminal waste, says the CDC.

Concentric by Ginkgo, the biosecurity and public health unit of Ginkgo Bioworks, and XpresCheck by XWELL confirmed they are partnering with the CDC to expand their monitoring of more than 30 new viruses, bacteria, and antimicrobial resistance targets.

The program expansion will launch at four of the program's seven major international airports: New York, JFK, SFO, Boston, and Washington DC, Dulles.

"With air travel exceeding pre-pandemic levels is crucial that we continue to test," commented XpresCheck CEO Ezra Ernst.

"The data we collect provides crucial insights for public health officials to inform how best to protect our nation from the threat of evolving viruses. We thank the volunteers who elect to swab their noses in service to our national security and public health."

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's, air travel over the past thirty days has exceeded the activity last seen in 2019.

Furthermore, vaccine-preventable travel diseases, such as dengue, measles, and polio, have accelerated outbreaks in early November 2023.

Our Trust Standards: Medical Advisory Committee

Article by
Donald Hackett