Scientists Develop ‘Breathalyzer’ Test To Detect COVID-19 In Seconds

2 min read

Today, even with COVID-19 still causing chaos, cities have opened up, offices have commenced with limited capacities. People entering premises are tested with an IR thermometer, but we all know that thing is almost useless, especially in asymptomatic cases.

Many of us think if there was a faster, more efficient way of detecting COVID-19 that could reduce the risk of people stepping out of their homes. Well, it looks like researchers might have got just the thing.

Researchers have developed a prototype device that detects COVID-19 just like a breathalyser machine detects alcohol consumption in one’s body.

The device has been developed by researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China. They’ve developed a sensor based on special materials made of ultrasmall nanoparticles that can detect COVID-19 in exhaled breath, just like a breathalyser test.

The device is made of an array of gold nanoparticles that are fused to molecules which are extremely sensitive to volatile organic compounds or VOCs — something that is emitted by the viruses as well as the infected cells.

When VOCs interact with molecules on the device, the electric resistance of the material changes, according to the scientists.

They were able to train the sensor in the device to look for COVID-19 with the help of machine learning. They use ML to compare the electric resistance signal patterns derived from the breath of 49 COVID-19 positive patients with 58 healthy individuals and 33 non-COVID lung infection patients.

They asked the patients to breathe into the device for a few seconds, from a distance of two centimetres. Whenever the device termed someone as COVID-19 positive, researchers noted down data to test the device’s accuracy.

Researchers claim that the device is 76 percent accurate in finding COVID-19 patients from healthy individuals, and 95 percent accurate in distinguishing between people with COVID-19 and people with other kinds of lung infection. The device also has a 88 percent accuracy rate to distinguish between sick and recovered COVID-19 patients. Researchers claim more testing is needed for truly testing the efficacy of the breathalyser.

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