This New Breathalyser Prototype Will Allow Much Faster COVID-19 Testing

To put an end to the pandemic, those attending big gatherings will need to be screened quickly. Even persons who are asymptomatic can spread COVID-19 to others, thus it is critical to identify and isolate them until they are no longer infectious.

Now, researchers have developed a prototype “breathalyser” that can detect COVID-19 in less than 5 minutes, even in asymptomatic persons.

Currently, the ideal standadard for COVID-19 testing is reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which is time-consuming, necessitates a painful nasopharyngeal swab for sample collection in a lab. Although the rapid antigen test is substantially faster with a greater probability of false negatives and positives.

New COVID-19 test similar to breathalyzer shows promise

Xing Yi Ling and colleagues set out to develop a breathalyser test that was quick, simple, and accurate enough for on-the-spot screening of large groups of individuals. The researchers created a portable breathalyser with three surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) sensors linked to silver nanocubes.

Compounds in a person’s breath chemically interact with the sensors as they exhale into the instrument for 10 seconds. The breathalyser is then loaded into a portable Raman spectrometer, which analyses the bonded substances based on changes in the SERS sensors’ molecular vibrations.

The researchers discovered that the Raman spectra of COVID-positive and -negative subjects differed in areas sensitive to ketones, alcohols, and aldehydes, which they utilised to construct a statistical model for COVID diagnosis.

The breathalyser was tested n 501 patients in Singapore hospitals and airports who were negative (85.2%), positive and symptomatic (8.6%), or positive and asymptomatic (6.2%) for the coronavirus by RT-PCR. The technique had a false-negative rate of 3.8 percent and a false-positive rate of 0.1 percent, which was equivalent to RT-PCR testing, but it could be conducted on-site in less than 5 minutes.

According to the researchers, the breathalyser might be a new weapon for combating COVID-19’s stealthy growth globally.

The new study was published in the journal ACS Nano.

Source: American Chemical Society

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