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Revolutionizing COVID-19 Testing: The One-Minute Breathalyzer

In the ongoing battle against COVID-19, a novel device has emerged that could potentially transform the way we test for the virus. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a breathalyzer that can detect the presence of the virus in just one minute, using only a couple of breaths of exhaled air.

Background:

Until now, rapid antigen tests or RATs have been the go-to method for at-home COVID-19 testing. These tests involve swabbing the inside of your nostrils and waiting for 15 to 20 minutes to get a result, which may not always be accurate. However, the new breathalyzer developed by the researchers at Washington University offers a faster and more convenient alternative.

The Innovation:

The breathalyzer is a hand-held device that tests for the COVID-19 virus using as little as two exhaled breaths, providing an accurate result in around a minute. This is a significant improvement over previously developed breath-analyzing COVID detectors that took three or five minutes to provide results. The device uses an electrochemical biosensor that detects whether the virus is present in the exhaled breath.

Benefits and Potential:

This novel device is not only cost-effective, with a production cost of less than $10 per test, but it’s also non-invasive and doesn’t require trained personnel to operate. Moreover, it can be adapted to detect a range of respiratory pathogens, including new COVID variants. The researchers are currently working on the simultaneous detection of multiple airborne viruses using different specific nanobodies.

Future Prospects:

The breathalyzer has the potential to revolutionize testing, especially at large gatherings like concerts or sports games that have the risk of becoming ‘superspreader’ events. Instead of going through the lengthy process of at-home testing, this new breathalyzer could rapidly test for COVID upon entry with little to no inconvenience and a great deal of peace of mind.

While the initial results are promising, the researchers plan to validate them by conducting a longitudinal clinical study. If successful, this breathalyzer could be a game-changer in our fight against COVID-19, making testing quicker, easier, and more accessible to everyone.