A team of researchers from UCLA and other universities is developing a Breathalyzer-like tool that would rapidly test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The team, which is led by UCLA engineering professor Pirouz Kavehpour, has received a $150,000 research grant from from the National Science Foundation to develop the diagnostic tool, according to a news release from the university.
“The goal in this research is to develop cheap, massively deployable, rapid diagnostic and sentinel systems for detecting respiratory illness and airborne viral threats,” explained Kavehpour, who is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, as well as bioengineering.
The COVID-19 diagnostic test is similar in use to the Breathalyzer, which utilizes infrared light to check blood alcohol levels. But the method is different, being based off of an environmental water condensation technology that Kavehpour and his team developed, according to researchers.
“For the coronavirus test, a person would exhale into the device for about a minute. Water vapor from their breath would condense on a special plate. Live virus and virus RNA could then be screened by using fluorescent genetic tags that light up if the virus is present,” the UCLA release stated.
The results could come back in about 10 minutes.
Test kits could be produced as early as this fall, provided the design is successful and meets federal criteria, according to the release.
Kavehpour’s team has applied for a patent for the design, which could also potentially be changed and used to detect other infection diseases and viral threats.