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First FDA Approved COVID-19 Breath Test Provides Results in Three Minutes

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 18 Apr 2022
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Image: COVID19 test detects chemical compounds in breath samples associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection (Photo courtesy of FDA)
Image: COVID19 test detects chemical compounds in breath samples associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection (Photo courtesy of FDA)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test that detects chemical compounds in breath samples associated with a SARS-CoV-2 infection and can provide results in less than three minutes. The test can be performed in environments where the patient specimen is both collected and analyzed, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals and mobile testing sites, using an instrument about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage.

The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer from InspectIR Systems, LLC (San Francisco, CA, USA) uses a technique called gas chromatography gas mass-spectrometry (GC-MS) to separate and identify chemical mixtures and rapidly detect five Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection in exhaled breath. When the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer detects the presence of VOC markers of SARS-CoV-2, a presumptive (unconfirmed) positive test result is returned and should be confirmed with a molecular test.

The performance of the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer was validated in a large study of 2,409 individuals, including those with and without symptoms. In the study, the test was shown to have 91.2% sensitivity and 99.3%. The study also showed that, in a population with only 4.2% of individuals who are positive for the virus, the test had a negative predictive value of 99.6%, meaning that people who receive a negative test result are likely truly negative in areas of low disease prevalence. The test performed with similar sensitivity in a follow-up clinical study focused on the omicron variant. InspectIR expects to be able to produce approximately 100 instruments per week, which can each be used to evaluate approximately 160 samples per day.

“Today’s authorization is yet another example of the rapid innovation occurring with diagnostic tests for COVID-19,” said Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “The FDA continues to support the development of novel COVID-19 tests with the goal of advancing technologies that can help address the current pandemic and better position the U.S. for the next public health emergency.”

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