The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will expand its traveler-based surveillance program to include testing for respiratory viruses, partners Ginkgo Bioworks and XWELL said on Monday.
The expansion, to be launched at four of the seven participating airports, comes ahead of the fall and winter months in the United States when viruses that cause respiratory diseases such as influenza and respiratory synctial virus (RSV) usually circulate more heavily.
CDC has warned that it expects hospitalizations from COVID-19, RSV infections and flu this year to be similar to last year’s numbers, higher than the pre-pandemic levels.
Ginkgo and XWELL said they will monitor over 30 new viruses, bacteria, and antimicrobial resistance targets including seasonal respiratory pathogens such as influenza A and B, RSV, and SARS-CoV-2 as part of the expansion.
The expansion will launch at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.
The surveillance program is a public-private partnership between the health agency, Ginkgo’s biosecurity and public health unit, Concentric, and XWELL’s diagnostic testing service, XpresCheck.
The agency conducts voluntary nasal swabbing and airport wastewater sampling as part of the program, aimed to help with early detection of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and other pathogens.