Research News

Breath test detects severe COVID-19 infection in seconds

More accurate and faster results than PCR test

Scientists at the Ohio State University, sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation, are developing a breath test that uses nanosensors to screen for COVID-19. The device measures biomarkers in breath unique to the virus and can detect COVID-19 in 15 seconds.

In addition to being faster and less invasive than the sometimes tear-inducing nasal swab, the test has proven effective in identifying the virus in critically ill people. It could reduce the number of COVID-19 patients that end up on a ventilator. Results from the study were published in PLOS ONE. The research team has requested approval for emergency use of the technology from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"This novel breathalyzer technology uses nanosensors to identify and measure specific biomarkers in the breath," said scientist Pelagia-Irene Gouma. "This is the first study to demonstrate the use of a nanosensor breathalyzer system to detect a viral infection from exhaled breath prints."

Added lead researcher Matthew Exline, "The gold standard for diagnosis of COVID-19 is a PCR test that requires an uncomfortable nasal swab and time in a lab to process the sample and obtain the results. The breathalyzer test used in our study can detect COVID-19 within seconds."

A fast, efficient and noninvasive method to detect viral infections has major implications for containing and controlling outbreaks, the scientists said. Future studies will look at the use of the technology for less severe COVID-19 patients.