Singapore researchers develop breath test to detect COVID-19, clinical trials highly successful


Singapore: Researchers in Singapore have developed a breath test to detect COVID-19 within a minute as authorities are working on a roadmap for the phase three of easing of safety measures in the country.

A person would simply have to blow into a disposable mouthpiece connected to a ‘high-precision breath sampler’, according to the National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers.

The test, which detects Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) in a person’s breath, achieved more than 90 per cent accuracy in a clinical trial involving 180 patients, ‘Channel News Asia’ reported, citing the ‘NUS’ statement.

The exhaled breath is then collected and fed into a mass spectrometer for measurement. A software subsequently analyses the VOC profile and generates the result in less than a minute.

The technology, developed by NUS start-up ‘Breathonix’, ‘offers a fast and convenient solution to identify COVID-19 infection’, said the university.

VOCs are consistently produced by various biochemical reactions in human cells, explained Breathonix CEO Dr Jia Zhunan.

“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 Jia was quoted as saying.

The firm’s chief operating officer Du Fang said that the system’s disposable mouthpiece has a one-way valve and a saliva trap which prevents inhalation and any saliva from entering the machine. “This makes cross-contamination unlikely,” said Du.

Meanwhile, Singapore reported six new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, including four imported ones, taking the total infections to 57,921.