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First Ever COVID-19 Portable Sweat Test Device Delivers Results in 30 Seconds

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 13 Sep 2021
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Image: The Portable Sweat Test Device for COVID-19 (Photo courtesy of Chulalongkorn University)
Image: The Portable Sweat Test Device for COVID-19 (Photo courtesy of Chulalongkorn University)
A first-ever COVID-19 portable sweat test device can yield instant results and could support proactive screening in the community.

Researchers at Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok, Thailand) have successfully developed, for the first time, a quick and easy-to-use portable sweat test device for COVID-19 to detect specific scents in sweat caused by bacteria. Sample collection only takes 15 minutes per person, and the results can be obtained in 30 seconds. The sweat test is now being used in community screening. The test is based on the success of the “COVID-19 Sniffer Dogs” project that uses sweat sniffer dogs to detect asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in the community.

People’s sweat may have more than 100 unique scents — be it from the powder, roll-on deodorant, or the bacteria that feed on sweat or skin secretions, then excrete the substances that are mixed with sweat. The portable sweat test device was developed from a commercially available portable chemistry analyzer which is generally used to measure chemicals that are toxic to the environment. To adapt it to detect COVID-19, the researchers installed a specific filter to detect the virus. The advantage of this method is that it can be adapted to detect mutated variants of the virus or other microorganisms. Field tests of the device on 2,000 people alongside the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing found the results to be on a par – with 95% sensitivity and 98% specificity.

“For those infected with COVID-19, the bacteria react abnormally to the virus and produce some distinct odors unique to COVID-19 infection,” explained Asst. Prof. Dr. Chadin Kulsing, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University. “The test kit consists of a glass vial and a cotton swab which screeners will receive one each. The screeners would place the cotton swab under the armpit of the person receiving the test and leave it for about 15 minutes. After that, the cotton swab is put in the glass vile, which is then sterilized with UV rays. The technician then draws an appropriate amount of the sample using a suction hose, and pressurizes it into the analyzer to check the results.”

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