A team in Vancouver is developing a COVID-19 breath test that, if successful, could garner results in as fast as a minute.
The technology was originally researched as a way to detect early signs of lung cancer, said respirologist Dr. Renelle Myers, at the BC Cancer Research Institute.
“We knew that our technology had great potential to help find a non-invasive, highly accurate COVID-19 test,” added clinician-scientist Dr. Stephen Lam.
The way it’s done: a patient exhales into a small tube. The breath sample is then analyzed for the presence of COVID-19 using a portable machine.
There would be no need for lengthy sample processing in a lab, saving both time and money for parties involved.
British Columbians currently have access to two primary COVID-19 tests – the nasal cavity swab and a gargle with saline. Results for both take on average 24 hours to come back.
Dr. Myers and Lam have already tested 300 study participants, some already COVID-19 positive and others who have displayed mild symptoms of the respiratory virus.
So far, they’ve identified several distinct compounds from COVID-19 positive participants, which will be used to program the technology to identify positive or negative test results.
The research is being partially funded by Concord Pacific, a real estate development company that provided around $125,000 to purchase a portable machine for the team.
Terry Hui, Concord Pacific CEO, said the creation, “has the potential of expanding to also be a quick test for other infectious diseases.”
Hui hopes to see the test used to help families and communities “get back to normal,” by quick-testing at special occasions such as weddings.
With success gained from use as a COVID-19 test, researchers then hope to move on using the breath-based technology to detect lung cancer – their original plan.
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