Scientists develop prototype coronavirus breathalyser test

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Scientists have developed a prototype device that non-invasively detects the novel coronavirus in the exhaled breath of COVID-19 patients, an invention if validated with further studies, may lead to a reduction in the number of unneeded confirmatory tests, and lower the burden on the hospitals.

According to the researchers, including those from the University of Science and Technology of China, current COVID-19 testing is a time-consuming laboratory procedure in addition to being uncomfortable.

In order to reduce transmission and mortality rates, they said healthcare systems need quick, inexpensive, and easy-to-use tests.

In the current study, published in the journal ACS Nano, the scientists developed a sensor based on special materials made of ultrasmall nanoparticles that could detect COVID-19 in exhaled breath, similar to a breathalyser test for alcohol intoxication.

The device is made of an array of gold nanoparticles linked to molecules that are sensitive to various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which the researchers said are emitted by viruses and the cells they infect. When the VOCs interact with the molecules on a nanoparticle, the electrical resistance of the material changes, the scientists added.