University of Miami tests ‘game-changing’ COVID-19 breath analyzer

Reporter: Veronica Marshall
Published: Updated:
(Credit: University of Miami)

There’s a new simple COVID-19 test in the works and this one is cutting down wait time and it’s painless – a breath analyzer.

Dr. Michael Mina, MD, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and a core member of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD).

He says, “We could end up seeing this thing continue to skyrocket for the next two months. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we start to detect 200,000 cases a day a month from now.”

Mina says there’s a way to stop the virus’ winter wave and it’s not a vaccine.

“Flood them with frequent testing, so that as many people as possible at any given time know their status and can isolate and quarantine,” Mina explains. “It can serve as something that is as effective as, if not potentially more effective, than a vaccine when it comes to controlling this virus.”

But current COVID-19 tests are either too slow, invasive, or expensive for frequent testing. That’s where the University of Miami’s new pilot study comes in.

Dr. Erin Kobetz, vice provost for research and scholarship at the University of Miami says, “You blow and the salivary particles that are in your saliva are captured in the breath test. And then we are able to test it for the presence of COVID.”

Kobetz, who leads the clinical study, says all it takes is three breaths. Less than five minutes later you’ll know if you have COVID-19 or not.

Kobetz’s team will test one-thousand students and staff and compare the results to COVID-19 PCR tests to confirm their accuracy.

If the breathalyzer test is effective, Kobetz says it could be used before people go into stadiums and arenas or classrooms.

“One, it’s pretty low cost. So it would allow for large numbers of people to be tested on a frequent basis. And two – it’s pretty simple to use,” Kobetz added.

And three – it might help create a flood of tests to wash away the winter wave.

The data collected by the University of Miami will then be sent to Tera-Group, the same company that created the breathalyzer, so it can apply for an early use authorization.

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