Researchers at Harvard University and MIT have designed a new face mask that can diagnose the SARS COV-2 virus in the wearer’s breath, within 90 minutes.
The mask design, described in the journal Nature Biotechnology, has embedded tiny, disposable sensors that can be fitted into other face masks, and could also be adapted to detect other viruses.
The researchers showed that the sensors could be incorporated into not only face masks but also clothing such as lab coats, potentially offering a new way to monitor health care worker's exposure to a variety of pathogens or other threats.
As per researchers, the biosensors were attached to standard KN95 face masks to help in detection of the virus, which the team said happened quickly. The sensors can be activated by the users with a button and results are reflected with a readout strip in a span of 90 minutes. The accuracy levels of the biosensors are being touted to be the same as the RT-PCR tests being conducted for COVID-19.
“We have demonstrated that we can freeze-dry a broad range of synthetic biology sensors to detect viral or bacterial nucleic acids, as well as toxic chemicals, including nerve toxins”, said James Collins, the senior author of the study and a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
“We envision that this platform could enable next-generation wearable biosensors for first responders, health care personnel, and military personnel”, He further added.
The face mask sensors are designed so that they can be activated by the wearer when they are ready to perform the test, and the results are only displayed on the inside of the mask, for the privacy of the user.
To produce these diagnostic face masks, the researcher's embedded freeze-dried sensors into a paper mask. These freeze-dried components are surrounded by a silicone elastometer, according to the researchers.
In order to make these masks available to a large fraction of people, the team of researchers are now looking for partnership for large-scale manufacturing.