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Breathalyzer-Type Device Could Identify Scent in Breath Altered by COVID-19

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 18 Dec 2020
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Image: COVID-19 could be detected immediately with a Breathalyzer-type device, and the ease and speed of the device could allow for scores of people to be tested in a short amount of time (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Image: COVID-19 could be detected immediately with a Breathalyzer-type device, and the ease and speed of the device could allow for scores of people to be tested in a short amount of time (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
A breath-testing device similar to a Breathalyzer – which tests blood alcohol levels – could detect COVID-19 immediately with ease and speed, allowing for scores of people to be tested in a short amount of time.

A team of researchers from IUPUI (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis; Indianapolis, IN, USA) is developing a COVID-19 breath-testing device based o the same methodology used in training dogs to sniff out prostate cancer molecules from urine samples. The team is developing a sensor that would identify the scent in breath altered by COVID-19. However, it would be different from how alcohol Breathalyzers work as they measure the level of alcohol in one's breath, which correlates to alcohol in the blood. The researchers are now collecting breath samples from people who have tested positive, including asymptomatically, and negative for COVID-19.

Portable blood-alcohol Breathalyzers that can be attached to a keychain can be purchased online for under USD 50, and the researchers believe that a similar device for COVID-19 could be just as inexpensive once it enters mass production. The team is currently using trained dogs with the capability to sniff out prostate cancer molecules from urine samples, preventing unnecessary biopsies for patients.

"We have the unique perspective of identifying a signature. We're looking at the metabolic pathways the virus causes, which can be identified," said Mangilal Agarwal from the School of Engineering and Technology who is leading the team. "This technology, or proof of it, could help not only with COVID-19 but with other infectious diseases."

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