New COVID-19 Breath Test on Trial to Cut Waiting Time from Hours to Seconds

The Dubai health authorities have run a series of trials of a new breath test to detect COVID-19, opening up the possibility of detecting the virus within seconds rather than hours.

Authorities see this development to be extremely helpful in the country’s efforts at mass testing.

Dubai Tests COVID-19 Breath Test; Results in Seconds
Credits: DHA

Dubai Tests COVID-19 Breath Test; Results in Seconds

In line with this, the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Breathonix Pte Ltd are working on a joint clinical trial to assess the accuracy of the easy-to-use breath test.

The test is expected to yield results within 60 seconds.

The trials are being conducted at the DHA’s Nadd Al Hamar primary health care centre for 2,500 patients.

This is how the new technology works: a person has to blow into a disposable mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler. The exhaled breath is then analysed, checking for the volatile organic compound (VOC) profile and generates the result in less than a minute.

According to the DHA, the whole process of breath collection to diagnosis takes less than a minute.. The authority hopes that the technology will significantly cut down the burden on laboratory processing.

It will drastically reduce the time taken to get the results, in comparison to the presently available testing methods such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test,” said Dr Nada Al Mulla, director of the DHA’s Nadd Al Hamar Primary Healthcare Sector. “The breath test for screening Covid-19 is highly efficient for mass screening, especially in areas of high (density).

The test was developed by Breathonix, a subsidiary of the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The Singapore-based company revealed that the pilot testing for the study involving 180 patients achieved a sensitivity of 93 per cent and specificity of 95 per cent with a machine learning algorithm.

In addition, Dr Jia Zhunan, co-founder and chief executive officer of Breathonix, explained that the technology is effortless to use.

How It Works

Breath analysis technology provides a quick and convenient solution for identifying Covid-19 infections. It functions by detecting VOCs present in human breath. Various biochemical reactions in human cells continue to produce VOCs.

Different diseases cause specific changes to the compounds, resulting in detectable changes in a person’s breath profile. As such, VOCs can be measured as markers for diseases like Covid-19,” Dr Zhuhan said.

The breath tests are non-invasive, and a person only needs to breathe normally into the device, so it is unlikely to cause discomfort. “It is also quick and easy to train people on how to carry out the test so that healthcare professionals can roll it out to testing sites.”

Thanks to Emirates, the test equipment was shipped from Singapore to Dubai. The airline sponsored the rapid transportation of the Breathonix breath test system to support clinical trials in Dubai.

Adel Al Redha, Chief Operating Officer of Emirates, said the technology is expected to be of great help in resuming international travel and other economic activities.

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