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Coronavirus-Detecting Breathing Device Could Potentially Give a Diagnosis in Less than One Minute

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 20 Apr 2020
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Image: Coronavirus-detecting breathing device could potentially give a diagnosis in less than one minute (Photo courtesy of Northumbria University)
Image: Coronavirus-detecting breathing device could potentially give a diagnosis in less than one minute (Photo courtesy of Northumbria University)
Researchers from two different parts of the world have developed a new method using a breathing device that could revolutionize the way diseases, such as the newly emerged strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, are diagnosed.

Two Israeli companies, Next-Gen and Scentech Medical, have jointly developed a coronavirus-detecting breathing device based on the breathalyzer machine used by the police for detecting alcohol levels in a person’s blood stream. When the patient breathes into the device, it can distinguish between thousands of gas compounds in the breath and then isolate the ones associated with the coronavirus, enabling a quick and simple diagnosis in less than a minute. In addition to significantly reducing the amount of time to achieve results due to its ability to deliver a diagnosis in minutes, the coronavirus-detecting breathing device can quickly identify and diagnose asymptomatic patients, as well as patients in the early stages of the disease, thus enabling a more efficient quarantine approach. The device is also capable of identifying the virus's genetic 'fingerprint.' – allowing for the detection of the genetic fingerprint of the next potential pandemic-causing virus even before it can do major damage.

Similarly, academics at Northumbria University (Newcastle, England) have developed a new device which enables diagnosis of disease through breath collection. Their new device allows sampling of the lung in a non-invasive way - by patients breathing into it - to retrieve biomarkers, such as DNA, RNA, proteins, and lipids found in the breath that have diagnostic potential for diseases of the lung and beyond. To date, systems that diagnose from breath sampling have not proven to be reliable enough due to contamination, sample loss and variability issues in breath analysis. However, the new device resolves these issues so that the data collected through this pioneering invention closely resembles results from lung samples taken surgically. It is hoped that in the future the technology could be used in the diagnosis of lung diseases as well as other health issues such as diabetes, cancers, liver problems, brain and ageing diseases.

“In the case of coronavirus, temperature monitoring in airports is not sufficient,” said Dr Sterghios Moschos, Associate Professor at Northumbria University, who led the study whilst at Westminster University. “The World Health Organization currently recommends testing nasal swabs, oral swabs and swabs from inside the lungs to avoid missing the infection. That’s why it’s vital that we develop non-invasive, quick and cost-effective tests for diagnosis and screening.”

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