Digital generated image of highlighted by circular spot light coronavirus Covid 19 and projected huhe shadow/silhouette to wall.
A new breath test could quickly identify COVID cases in large group community settings. (Credit: Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty Images)

At-home testing kits helped rapidly reduce the time for identifying COVID-19 infections, but even beyond the pandemic, there remains the concern for rapidly spreading the virus in large crowds.

A new device, however, can identify COVID infections with a quick breath test and delivers results in less than a minute. The small handheld tool could be a major benefit to places like nursing homes and long-term care facilities where there is close and constant interaction among vulnerable people. 

The device also could be used to screen for new COVID strains or other airborne diseases, the researchers say. 

Furthermore, the biosensor technology the researchers used could be modified to detect new pathogens – or several at once – within two weeks of first analyzing the samples, the researchers claim. 

Conducted by scientists at the Washington University in St. Louis, study findings were published in the journal Sensors.

“With this test, there are no nasal swabs and no waiting 15 minutes for results,” study co-author Rajan K. Chakrabarty, PhD, said in a statement. “A person simply blows into a tube in the device.”

Currently, the plan is to continue to test the device to improve its accuracy, before it becomes commercially available, the researchers said.

Despite the fact that COVID is no longer a public health emergency in the US and elsewhere, there is currently a rise in COVID cases. Seniors and LTC communities remain vulnerable and at greater risk overall. 

Recent studies involving data collected through a smartwatch reinforce the value of COVID vaccinations among both patients and staff, and the ability for vaccines to lessen symptoms.

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